The Supreme Court today received yet another request to intervene in a state’s redistricting battle – this time from Republican legislators in Pennsylvania, who asked the justices to temporarily block a ruling by the state’s supreme court invalidating the state’s federal congressional map. A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ordered the legislature to draw new maps by February 9, ruling that the current map was the product of partisan gerrymandering and violates the Pennsylvania constitution.
In their brief filed today, the Republican legislators – who include the president pro tempore of the state senate and the speaker of the state’s house of representatives — told the justices that the state supreme court’s decision “has cast Pennsylvania’s Congressional elections into chaos on the eve of the 2018 primary elections,” which are scheduled for May 18; March 6 is the deadline for candidates to file to run in the primaries. With those deadlines in mind, the legislators asked the justices to rule on their request by January 31.
Election law expert Rick Hasen described the legislators’ request as a “longshot bid,” because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court relied on the state constitution – of which the state supreme court, rather than the U.S. Supreme Court, is generally the sole arbiter. The legislators argue that, because the federal constitution gives state legislatures power over federal congressional elections, the state court’s ruling infringes on their authority. In 2015, the Supreme Court rejected an argument by the Arizona legislature that the state’s use of an independent redistricting commission violated the U.S. constitution; we’ll have a better sense soon of what the justices might think of the Pennsylvania legislators’ reasoning.
This post was also published on SCOTUSblog.