Dems Just Netted Five Congressional Seats Without A Sweat, Thanks To SCOTUS

Kevin Daley | Supreme Court Reporter

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the Pennsylvania GOP’s bid to stop a new statewide congressional district map Monday, in likely a boon to Democratic efforts to take control of the House of Representatives this November.

There were no noted dissents from the decision, though the 20-day period that elapsed between Monday and the day the petition was filed led many court-watchers to conclude that some of the justices were writing a statement respecting the petition.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania overturned the old map on Jan. 22, finding it was unlawfully tailored to favor Republicans. They ordered the state legislature to produce a new map by Feb. 9, and reserved the right to review the revised lines. The court said it would issue its own map if the legislature could not create a satisfactory alternative by the deadline.

The deadline passed, and the court issued its own map shortly thereafter. Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are elected, and Democrats have a five to two majority on the panel.

The high court’s denial was widely expected, as the Pennsylvania decision is rooted almost entirely in state law. The justices generally give state courts the final word on interpretations of state charters.

For their part, state Republican leaders argued the action was unlawful, as the U.S. Constitution gives legislatures the exclusive power to draw district lines. They further accused the state court of rigging the litigation against them.

Justice Samuel Alito rebuffed an effort to stop the redraw in February.

President Donald Trump repeatedly urged the justices to intervene in the case, blasting the Pennsylvania court on Twitter and at a campaign rally in Pittsburgh.

There are 18 congressional seats in Pennsylvania, 13 of which are held by Republicans. Projections suggest Democrats will win four more seats under the new map. In addition, Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district will gain a significant share of Democratic voters, a boon to Rep.-elect Conor Lamb’s reelection effort. Lamb, a Democrat, defeated Republican Rick Saccone in a special election Mar. 18.

The justices are currently considering two challenges to the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. The first, Gill v. Whitford arises from Wisconsin and was heard in November. The second, Benisek v. Lamone, arises from Maryland and will be heard Mar. 28.

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