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Pennsylvania GOP urges Supreme Court to toss congressional map

Several Republican candidates called a state court's map unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court building, as seen at sunset in December.
The U.S. Supreme Court building, as seen at sunset in December. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Pennsylvania Republicans asked the Supreme Court on Monday to overturn a state court-approved congressional map, arguing the Democrat-controlled court exceeded its authority by imposing the map without the legislature’s approval.

The appeal from several Republican candidates called the court decision “flagrantly unconstitutional” and asked the justices to throw out a redistricting map where President Joe Biden would have carried nine of the state’s 17 congressional districts. That map also would have split the district of Rep. Fred Keller into seats now held by two other Republicans — prompting Keller on Monday to announce he would retire rather than “run against another member of Pennsylvania’s Republican congressional delegation.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected the map in a decision last week after the politically divided state government failed to approve one.

[Courts adopt new House maps that favor Democrats in PA, NC]

In its appeal, the group argued the state court’s selection of one of the plaintiffs’ maps targeted Republicans and violated the Constitution by having congressional districts that deviated in population by two or more people.

“The [adopted plan] contains other partisan gerrymanders designed to help Democrats and harm Republicans,” the appeal said.

Earlier February, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Alabama in an appeal over its congressional map that allegedly discriminated against Black voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In that decision, a conservative majority allowed the state’s map to stand.

Monday’s appeal would leave Pennsylvania without a congressional map heading into its May 17 primary and try to force an agreement over a new map between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

The appeal is part of a broader pushback by Republicans against what they see as Democratic success in state courts. The recent intervention of Ohio and North Carolina courts overturned Republican-drawn maps on allegations they unfairly favored the GOP.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a co-chair of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, argued the courts have become partisan actors after a series of campaigns by Democrats to flip state supreme courts.

“These are nothing but partisan rubber stamps today,” Christie said in a media call last week about rulings in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

“[W]e can’t take for granted these Supreme Court elections and what impact they can have on the maps that are going to rule the country from a congressional perspective for the next decade,” Christie said.

Ohio’s state Supreme Court is controlled by Republicans, and one Republican joined Democrats to overturn the state’s legislature-drawn map.

Pennsylvania’s court took up the case after litigants argued the state government’s split control would prevent the parties from finalizing new boundaries. In January, the legislature passed a new congressional map, which Wolf vetoed.

In last week’s decision, the state Supreme Court accepted one of the plaintiffs’ plans after selecting from several offered by the litigants.

Pennsylvania lost one of its 18 House seats through reapportionment, and the new map accounted for relative population loss in the middle of the state by splitting Keller’s district into seats held by fellow Republican Reps. Dan Meuser and Glenn “GT” Thompson. Although Keller originally said after the map’s release he planned to run in Meuser’s district, on Monday he announced he would instead retire rather than compete against a fellow Republican.

“With control of Congress — and the direction of our nation — at stake, this election is bigger than any one person. Rather than pit Republicans against Republicans, which the congressional map chosen by the liberal Pennsylvania Supreme Court does, I am committed to helping take back the House, holding Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat, and electing a conservative Governor,” he said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania map has seven seats in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions that went to Biden by 5 percentage points or more. Another six seats spread across the state went to former President Donald Trump by 5 percentage points or more. Biden won the state by 1.2 percentage points in 2020.

The 1st District in the Philadelphia suburbs, held by Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, will remain one of the state’s most competitive. So will districts held by Democratic Reps. Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright. The district held by Rep. Conor Lamb, who has launched a campaign for the state’s open Senate seat, would also remain competitive.

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