Lawmakers face deadline for producing new Congressional map

Demonstrators gather outside of The United States Supreme Court during an oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford to call for an end to partisan gerrymandering

Republican leaders in the state House and Senate say they have agreed to a map of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts.

Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the state court's ruling because of the condensed timeline and the threat that if the Legislature fails to produce new maps on time, the state Supreme Court will produce its own.

Crompton said lawmakers have no assurance that Gov. Tom Wolf will accept their plan for redrawing the maps if it comes after the Friday deadline.

The Wolf administration is not taking a position as to whether a joint submission by Scarnati and Turzai alone falls within the bounds of the court's order, noting that the court has ultimate discretion to decide such matters. Namely, the court found that, in order to comply with the Free Elections Clause, a district must be "be equal, to the extent possible", "comprised of compact and contiguous geographical territory" and respect "the boundaries of existing political subdivisions contained therein, such that the district divides as few of those subdivisions as possible."When, however, it is demonstrated that, in the creation of congressional districts, these neutral criteria have been subordinated, in whole or in part, to extraneous considerations such as gerrymandering for unfair partisan political advantage, a congressional redistricting plan violates Article I, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution".

The case stems from a lawsuit filed a year ago by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and several Democratic voters challenging the map under the state constitution's equal protection and free speech guarantees. "In terms of compactness, a rudimentary review reveals a map comprised of oddly shaped, sprawling districts which wander seemingly arbitrarily across Pennsylvania, leaving 28 counties, 68 political subdivisions, and numerous wards, divided among as many as five congressional districts, in their wakes", the justices wrote.

The new mapping will help ensure each one of us has an equal voice into who is elected.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) said Friday evening that Democrats in the chamber "had no role" in creating the map.

"We're going to make a good-faith effort", said state Sen. Wolf said he would consider his options if the map was not the result of a "bipartisan process".

Scarnati, he said, has refused to turn over data used to create the original district map.

The state constitution says House and Senate districts "shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of population taken by order of Congress".

"This is the antithesis of a healthy representative democracy", Justice Debra McCloskey Todd wrote in the opinion, which was joined by Justices Christine Donohue, David Wecht and Kevin Dougherty.

"The ball is in our court", he said.

"The Supreme Court is setting new ground", he said.

By drawing districts in this way, Pennsylvania Republicans "interfere [D] to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage" under the Pennsylvania state Constitution.

"There's a lot of room for discretionary choice, but it limits the ruling faction from excluding others", Kreimer said.

This case is one of many legal challenges to partisan and racial gerrymandering that are working their way through state and federal courts. Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy - the only Republicans - filed separate dissents.

"This opinion is hugely important for demonstrating the power of state constitutions to protect voting rights when the federal courts won't under the federal constitution", he said, adding that 26 states' constitutions include "free and equal" or "free and open" elections clauses. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable.

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