Pennsylvania GOP to seek a stop to gerrymandering case

Will petition US Supreme Court to intervene

HARRISBURG, Pa - Pennsylvania's top Republican lawmakers said they are outraged by the state Supreme Court's decision to strike down the boundaries of the state's 18 congressional districts and will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt it.

Pennsylvania's top two Republican state senators, Joe Scarnati and Jake Corman, said Monday that the state court's decision oversteps its legal authority. They said they'll petition the U.S. Supreme Court this week to halt the decision.

"Today's ruling by the state Supreme Court is a partisan action showing a distinct lack of respect for the constitution and the legislative process," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

They also said the state court has set up an impossible deadline of February 9 to redraw the map and that will "introduce chaos in the upcoming congressional election."

"The court had this case since November 9, 2017 – giving it over 10 weeks to reach this decision," the lawmakers said. "Yet, it has elected to give the legislature 19 days to redraw and adopt the congressional districts."

If the Republican-controlled Legislature fails to meet the deadline, the justices said they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track.

"Any congressional districting plan shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population," the court said in its order.

Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration is reviewing the order and assessing the executive branch's next steps in this process.

Democratic voters, including Thomas Rentschler of Exeter Township, sued last summer, contending that Pennsylvania's congressional boundaries were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

The state's congressional delegation is controlled by Republicans, 13-5, even though registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Mike Stack, a defendant in the case, proposed a new map that was drawn using nonpartisan algorithms.

His plan would overhaul how Berks County is represented, returning the number of districts within the county from four to one.

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