Judges Strike Down Pennsylvania GOP Complaint Over Redrawn Congressional Map

Three-judge federal panel dismisses Republican lawsuit over new court-drawn map

Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., is among the lawmakers listed as plaintiffs against the new congressional map in Pennsylvania. He is running for Senate in the Keystone State. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., is among the lawmakers listed as plaintiffs against the new congressional map in Pennsylvania. He is running for Senate in the Keystone State. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 19, 2018 at 2:42pm

A federal district court declined a long-shot request Monday from Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers to block a new congressional map as the 2018 elections near. The Supreme Court has yet to act on a similar request from the lawmakers.

Eight Republican House members from the Pennsylvania delegation joined Republican state lawmakers as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which a three-judge panel dismissed.

The list of plaintiffs included 2018 Senate candidate Lou Barletta and Rep. Keith Rothfus, whose seat is now in jeopardy with the new court-drawn boundaries.

Republicans in the lawsuit argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decisions to strike the 2011 congressional districts map and to issue its own replacement map violated the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, the judges summarized in their joint opinion.

The Republicans claimed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court “usurped the General Assembly’s authority to develop congressional districts” and did not give the General Assembly enough time to redraw the map before the court-drawn map would take effect.

The federal judges concluded they had “no authority” other than to dismiss the lawsuit because “fundamental principles of constitutional standing and judicial restraint” prohibited them from “exercising jurisdiction” over Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court decision.

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State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and state House Speaker Mike Turzai called the court-drawn map the “ultimate partisan gerrymander” in favor of Democrats in a joint statement in February.

“Implementation of this map would create a constitutional crisis where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is usurping the authority of the Legislative and Executive branches,” they said. “We anticipate further action in federal court.”

Democrats in the state said the new court-drawn boundaries are a correction to extreme gerrymandering by the Republican-controlled statehouse in 2011.

“This map is now a return to Pennsylvania being towards the center of the political universe when it comes to competitive congressional races,” J.J. Balaban, a Democratic strategist in Pennsylvania, said in February. “In a state that arguably had one competitive congressional seat for the past three cycles, now it has six.”

The Supreme Court has not said whether it will consider a similar lawsuit filed by Republicans.

Todd Ruger and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.