GOP leaders in Pennsylvania appeal to Supreme Court on new congressional lines

GOP leaders in Pennsylvania appeal to Supreme Court on new congressional lines
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Pennsylvania GOP leaders are calling on the Supreme Court to overturn a state court ruling that declared the state's congressional map an improper gerrymander, scuttling its congressional districts earlier this year in favor of Democrats.

State House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore, the top Republican lawmakers in the state legislature, filed their appeal Thursday afternoon, marking the latest attempt to overturn the state court's decision after the Supreme Court denied two emergency requests to intervene earlier this year.

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Republicans have argued that the state court did not give the legislature enough time to forge a compromise map with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf after it ruled the map unconstitutional in January. When the two sides couldn't reach a compromise, the state Supreme Court redrew the map.

That map is a boon for Democrats, which control only five of the 18 House seats despite being regularly competitive in statewide elections. The new boundaries have improved the party's chances in a handful of House races this year — Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates seven GOP-held seats in the state on its list of competitive races for November.

Republicans say the court overstepped its bounds, and they filed a series of failed lawsuits meant to block the changes. Some Republicans also discussed the prospect of impeaching judges over the decision. Appeals filed both to state and federal courts came up short, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the GOP challenges earlier this year.

Because of those failed attempts, the case would not have an impact on the 2018 midterm elections. But in a Thursday statement, the two state GOP lawmakers said "the voters of Pennsylvania deserve an answer as to whether the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority."

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause when it legislated from the bench adding new requirements for drawing congressional districts which do not exist in either the Pennsylvania Constitution or the U.S. Constitution," the lawmakers said. "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court further violated the Elections Clause by implementing a remedial phase that did not give the General Assembly an ‘opportunity’ to enact a new map."

If the court does decide to hear the case, a ruling could be important as the state readies another round of redistricting after the 2020 elections.