PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — Pennsylvania’s two highest-ranking Republican legislative leaders are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the new congressional district map viewed as likely to help Democrats.
The presiding officers of the House and the Senate on Wednesday electronically filed an emergency request to stay a state Supreme Court order issued Monday that redrew boundaries of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts. The request to Justice Samuel Alito says the state Supreme Court usurped legislative authority and calls the decision unprecedented.
In a separate action, Republican leaders in Pennsylvania also went to federal court to stop the state government from implementing the redistricting plan drawn up by the state Supreme Court.
“This is a fight between the Pennsylvania Constitution and United States Constitution,” attorney Heather Heidelbaugh told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Heidelbaugh, who represents Republicans in election cases, says the U.S. Constitution gives the power to draw congressional district lines solely to state legislatures, not the state courts.
The U.S. Constitution does say “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”
“This really was a grabbing of power,” notes Heidelbaugh.
Not so, says attorney Cliff Levine, who represents Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in this case.
The current districts that Republicans want to keep were a partisan gerrymander under the state Constitution, says Levine, and the state Supreme Court was right to strike them down.
“The 2011 plan was the most partisan gerrymander that you can imagine,” says Levine.
He says the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf could have enacted a new map this year, but they didn’t.
Levine says that happened before in 1991 when once again the state Supreme Court had to step in with their own map when the legislature and the governor failed to agree on a map.
So should the federal courts overrule the state court?
Democratic lawyers argue that there is precedent in the U.S. Supreme Court for the state of Pennsylvania Supreme Court to draw up a reapportionment plan.
In fact, there’s a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1993 out of Minnesota in which Justice Scalia says that the state of Minnesota’s court could draw up a reapportionment plan and the federal courts should defer to that.
Of course, whether that case of 25 years ago is still good law is about to be tested.
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