Pa. GOP piles on lawsuits in bid to avoid new congressional map

Advocates supporting the lawsuit that eventually overturned the state's congressional map rallied outside Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's office in Centre County in October 2017.  (Min Xian/Keystone Crossroads)

Advocates supporting the lawsuit that eventually overturned the state's congressional map rallied outside Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's office in Centre County in October 2017. (Min Xian/Keystone Crossroads)

State Senate Republicans and eight GOP congressmen have appealed to Pennsylvania’s Middle District Court to stop a new congressional map drawn by the state Supreme Court from going into effect.

It’s the second federal suit filed over the map this week.

The commonwealth’s Supreme Court declared the congressional map an unconstitutional Republican gerrymander about a month ago.

After lawmakers didn’t meet the court’s short deadline to fix it, justices redrew the map themselves. And analysts expect it will give Democrats stronger representation.

Republicans are furious.

House GOP Leader Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati almost immediately appealed to the US Supreme Court, claiming the state court had no grounds to throw out the map.

They wrote that the state Supreme Court “legislated criteria the Pennsylvania General Assembly must satisfy when drawing a congressional districting plan…But no Pennsylvania legislative process…adopted or ratified those criteria.”

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said his new lawsuit — which he filed in conjunction with GOP Senate State Government Committee Chair Mike Folmer — makes a slightly different case.

“My argument is, even if [the justices] do have the power to invalidate, they don’t have the power to then legislate.”

Corman contends the short, three-week deadline the court gave lawmakers to redraw congressional maps violated the General Assembly’s right under the US Constitution’s Elections Clause to decide how congressional maps are drawn.

It’s an argument that also crops up in Turzai and Scarnati’s suit.

Corman is technically targeting election officials in Governor Tom Wolf’s administration.

“They’re the ones who have to implement the elections, so we’re looking for a temporary restraining order from them doing that while this case can be heard,” he said.

It’s unclear how quickly either court will rule.

Meanwhile, Wolf administration officials said they plan to keep working to put the court’s new maps into effect for the May 15th primary election.

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