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Supreme Court denies appeal of Pennsylvania, North Carolina maps

Justices reject GOP efforts to block maps favoring Democrats

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)

The Supreme Court allowed congressional maps that favor Democrats to move forward in North Carolina and Pennsylvania in an order issued Monday afternoon.

The two decisions reflect the latest in a flurry of court filings in the last few weeks as Republicans seek to overturn court victories they see favoring Democrats. In a concurring opinion on the decision rejecting the North Carolina case, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote the Supreme Court will likely not intervene in other mapmaking cases.

“[I]t is too late for the federal courts to order that the district lines be changed for the 2022 primary and general elections, just as it was too late for the federal courts to do so in the Alabama redistricting case last month,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Last month, the Supreme Court allowed an allegedly racially discriminatory map to move forward for this fall’s elections. There, Kavanaugh argued the state’s May primary was too close to fully hear the dispute over the map.

Both Pennsylvania and North Carolina have May 17 primaries.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented, writing they would have granted the stay in the North Carolina case. Kavanaugh, in the concurring opinion, wrote the court may consider the merits of the case down the road.

The high court rejected Pennsylvania case without a written order.

The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, one of the plaintiffs in the state court case that tossed the map, praised the Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal.

“The same legislators who drew unconstitutional, gerrymandered maps sought to throw North Carolina’s elections into disarray with a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after they lost repeatedly in state court,” the organization said in a statement.

North Carolina picked up a seat through reapportionment, and the map approved by a three-judge panel would only hold for the elections this fall. The court-approved map followed a decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court that found the state legislature-approved boundaries violated state constitutional protections against partisan gerrymandering.

The panel adopted its own plan instead that would have a partisan split closer to the state’s overall divide, which broke 50-49 for Donald Trump over Joe Biden in 2020.

Republicans appealing that decision argued that the state judges overstepped their authority in selecting the congressional map. By their reasoning, only state legislatures have the power to draw such maps.

Pennsylvania lost one of the 18 House seats it has now through reapportionment, and the new map accounted for relative population loss in the middle of the state by splitting Republican Rep. Fred Keller’s district into seats held by Republican Reps. Dan Meuser and Glenn “GT” Thompson. Keller subsequently decided to retire after this term.

Appellants in the Pennsylvania case argued the state Supreme Court acted improperly by choosing a map and sought to have it tossed out to force the Republican legislature and Democratic governor into last-minute talks for a compromise.

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

A separate appeal by Republicans in Wisconsin filed Monday was still pending. That case revolves around the state Supreme Court’s selection of a map put forward by the Democratic governor in stalemate litigation. With Republicans in control of the state legislature and a Democrat as governor, the two sides were not able to compromise on a map before the court stepped in.

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