Monday, January 22, 2018

PA Supreme Court Throws Out Congressional District Maps, Senate Rs To Seek U.S. Supreme Court Stay, Start Drawing New Maps

The PA Supreme Court Monday, by a vote of 4 to 3, issued a decision finding the state’s Congressional District Map “clear, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.”
The General Assembly and Governor have until February 15 to submit a revised plan for consideration by the Court.
If the General Assembly and Governor fail to act by that date, the Court itself will adopt a plan based on the evidentiary record development in the Commonwealth Court.
To comply with its decision, the Court said, “...any congressional districting plan shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said they will seek a stay of the Court’s order before the U.S. Supreme Court in a statement--
“Today’s ruling by the State Supreme Court is a partisan action showing a distinct lack of respect for the Constitution and the legislative process.  The PA Supreme Court has overstepped its legal authority and set up an impossible deadline that will only introduce chaos in the upcoming Congressional election.  
“The Court had this case since November 9, 2017 – giving it over 10 weeks to reach this decision.  Yet, it has elected to give the legislature 19 days to redraw and adopt the Congressional Districts.  With matters the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in the past, it afforded the General Assembly four months to make corrections.
“It is clear that with this ruling the Court is attempting to bypass the Constitution and the legislative process and legislate themselves, directly from the bench.  We will be filing an application with the United States Supreme Court this week to request a stay.”
In response to questions from the media, Drew Crompton, Chief Of Staff for Sen. Scarnati, said the lack of a written opinion has the Senate “flying blind here a little bit,” but they will be starting the process of developing a new map to the best of their ability given the timeline they were given by the Court while they pursue the U.S. Supreme Court stay.  He said they have to, given the 19 day timeline.  “We will start today.”
Crompton noted the formal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has to wait for the PA Supreme Court's written opinion.  Only the Order has been issued at this point.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said this on Twitter about the decision -- “I call on all four caucuses and Gov. Wolf to come together as soon as possible to draw bipartisan, fair and appropriate maps before the February 9 deadline.”
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) said this about the Court decision-- “Gerrymandering, the voter ID law, shrinking the House and other measures that impact some communities more than others are cynical ploys by the Republican majority to choose their voters rather letting voters choose their representatives in fair elections. The Supreme Court’s decision sends a strong signal that change is at hand in Pennsylvania politics and government.
“It’s a victory for people over entrenched special interests.
“The contorted 2011 congressional map never passed a simple eye test. Now the Supreme Court has clearly said it doesn’t pass the legal test either.
“House Democrats will be active participants in a bipartisan effort to meet the very tight deadline set by the court to enact congressional districts that are constitutional.”
Gov. Tom Wolf issued this statement in response to the Court's action-- "I strongly believe that gerrymandering is wrong and consistently have stated that the current maps are unfair to Pennsylvanians. My administration is reviewing the order and we are assessing the executive branch's next steps in this process."
The Justices supporting the PA Supreme Court decision all ran as Democrats.  Justices Baer (D) and Mundy (R) and Chief Justice Saylor (R) joined by Justice Mundy all filed dissenting statements.
For copies of the documents related to this ruling--
-- Click Here for the Court’s Order
-- Click Here for Justice Baer Dissenting Statement
-- Click Here for Chief Justice Saylor Dissenting Statement
-- Click Here for Justice Mundy Dissenting Statement

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