Court Created Congressional Mess

Court Created Congressional Mess

By Leo Knepper

Court Created Congressional MessThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court released its version  (see image) of the congressional districts map on Monday.  As we noted previously, the Court lacks authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution to draw districts. It is likely that Republicans will file suit in federal court to stop the Court-created Congressional districts from being used in the 2018 elections. One avenue for seeking a federal injunction is summarized by Justice Max Baer, the lone Democrat to dissent from the final opinion:

“While I have expressed my misgivings with allowing an election to proceed based upon a constitutionally-flawed map, I continue to conclude that the compressed schedule failed to provide a reasonable opportunity for the General Assembly to legislate a new map in compliance with the federal Constitution’s delegation of redistricting authority to state legislatures.[US Constitution, Article 1, Section 4]

“My skepticism regarding the time allotted the Legislature has been borne out. Democracy generally, and legislation specifically, entails elaborate and time-consuming processes. Here, regardless of culpability, the Legislature has been unable to pass a remedial map to place on the Governor’s desk for signature or veto. Under these circumstances, Pennsylvania and federal law permit the use of the existing, albeit unconstitutional, map for one final election.” [Emphasis added]

A second issue is the Court’s districts do not minimize the number of splits to local governments (i.e., townships, municipalities, counties, etc.). An analysis by Amanda Holt found that the districts adopted by the Court resulted in more splits (79) than the district maps submitted by Republicans (61) and a separate plan offered by the Senate Democrats (60). You may not recognize her name, but Ms. Holt’s research in 2011 was the primary evidence used to throw out the state House and Senate districts for constitutional reasons. Her current finding is significant because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated in their original decision that local governments could only be split to ensure equal population. Furthermore, as she notes on her blog, the fact that the Court’s districts are drawn with more splits could demonstrate to a federal judge a lack of “good faith effort.”

The high likelihood of another lawsuit being brought by Republicans to the federal court regarding the Congressional districts means the issue is still up in the air. We will keep you posted as the story continues to develop.

Mr. Knepper is executive director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania.

Court Created Congressional Mess


2 thoughts on “Court Created Congressional Mess”

  1. I commented on another post, this is gerrymandered. However, I have seen a map that is NOT gerrymandered and has all straight lines.

  2. Article 1,Section 4 of the US Constitution reads: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators. Congress has mandated that representatives generally be elected from single-member districts. The SCOTUS has interpreted Article 2, Section 2 to mean those districts be as equal in population as “practicable. Q. If Pennsylvania were not a party to the US Constitution, could/would its legislature delineate congressional district? May the Province of Ontario delineate congressional districts? A. Of course not. The US Constitution grants to the Legislatures of the respective states the authority to draw congressional district. This authority is not granted to the State, but rather to the Legislature. Note what happened in Pennsylvania, is clearly distinguishable from what happened in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Florida.

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