Supreme Court dismisses GOP challenge of Pennsylvania voting map

By Sommer Brokaw  |  March 19, 2018 at 6:22 PM
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March 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday not to block Pennsylvania's new congressional district voting map, which Republicans challenged as unconstitutional.

The state Supreme Court redrew the map in February after it determined the previous map "plainly and palpably" violated the state Constitution.

Republican leaders said the court didn't give state lawmakers enough time to redraw the map after the February ruling. Monday's ruling followed another unsuccessful challenge in a federal district court earlier in the day in which a three-judge panel said the GOP leaders who brought the case did not have the standing to represent the whole General Assembly.

The Pennsylvania Democrats who challenged the 2011 voting map accused Republicans of gerrymandering -- diluting the votes of Democrats and racial minorities. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania told USA Today it was "déjà vu all over again" with arguments that "have not improved with age."

Since 2012, Republicans have won 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats even though Democrats have won statewide races, including in the U.S. Senate. President Donald Trump narrowly won the state in 2016.

The state Supreme Court, when it released the redrawn map last month, said the new districts should be more compact, contiguous, contain roughly the same number of people and not split counties unnecessarily. The new map also splits Philadelphia into two districts instead of the previous three. The 2011 map split 28 counties.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision comes a day before a filing deadline for the May primaries. The new map also will be used in the general election in which Pennsylvania is considered a battleground state.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf previously rejected Republicans' attempts to redraw the map.

"I applaud these decisions that will allow the upcoming election to move forward with the new and fair congressional maps," he said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The people of Pennsylvania are tired of gerrymandering and the new map corrects past mistakes that created unfair Congressional Districts and attempted to diminish the impact of citizens' votes."

State Senate Republican leader Jake Corman said he was disappointed.

"I'm sure we'll review options, but I think we're accepting the decision -- don't like it, but that's life and we move on," he said.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state facing a battle over its congressional map. The U.S. Supreme Court delayed its ruling on a similar North Carolina case to give it time to consider other cases in Wisconsin and Maryland.

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