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Pennsylvania state senator refuses court order to redraw district map

By Daniel Uria
Pennsylvania state senator refuses court order to redraw district map
Pennsylvania's Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati refused an order by the state's Supreme Court to a congressional map, stating the court overstepped its authority. Photo by Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus/Wikimedia Commons

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The Pennsylvania state Senate leader denied an order by the state's Supreme Court to redraw a congressional map.

Attorneys for Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati wrote a letter to the state's high court saying he would not turn over statewide municipal and precinct map data, arguing the court has overstepped its authority.

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"In light of the unconstitutionality of the court's orders and the court's plain intent to usurp the General Assembly's constitutionally delegated role of drafting Pennsylvania's congressional districting plan, Sen. Scarnati will not be turning over any data identified in the court's orders," the letter states.

Scarnati and other Republicans argued the court did not provide them with enough time to draw a new map.

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"The court's January 22 Order deprives legislative respondents of the ability to draft the court-ordered alternate map because it provides no explanation as to how the 2011 plan violates the Pennsylvania Constitution or what the General Assembly must do to fashion a map that complies with Pennsylvania's constitution," the letter states.

The Democratic-dominant high court ruled on Jan. 22 that a new map must be put in place before the 2018 midterm elections in May.

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Justices directed the Republican-controlled General Assembly to redraw the map and submit it to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, by Feb. 9 and the court by Feb. 15.

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The court added it will draw its own map "based on the evidentiary record developed" if the deadlines aren't met.

Scarnati and Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state court's ruling, saying the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to run elections.

Lawmakers passed an empty document known as a "shell bill" this week, which repeals the previous map to beat the deadline with plans to amend it later and insert the new map.

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