Pennsylvania Republicans ask Supreme Court to block new congressional map




U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington
U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington  

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - Pennsylvania Republicans on Wednesday filed an emergency appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a new congressional map drawn by the state's top court from taking effect ahead of this year's mid-term elections.

The Supreme Court rejected a similar petition from the state's Republican legislative leaders earlier this month, paving the way for a new map for the state's U.S. congressional districts.

The new map, which the court released on Monday, is widely seen as giving Democrats a far better chance of capturing multiple seats in U.S. House of Representatives in the November elections. Republicans have held 13 of the state's 18 U.S. House seats since 2011, despite Pennsylvania's status as a closely divided bellwether state.

Democrats need to win 24 seats nationally to retake control of the House from Republicans.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court in January invalidated the existing congressional lines, which were created in 2011 by the Republican-controlled legislature, as an unconstitutional gerrymander that marginalized Democratic voters.

Separately, state Republicans are planning to file a new federal lawsuit as soon as Thursday in Harrisburg, the state capital, challenging the state court's ruling, according to Republican officials.

Wednesday's filing argued the state's top court failed to provide lawmakers with enough time or guidance to draw a new map before it stepped in and took over the process, usurping the legislature's constitutional authority to set congressional district lines.

The Republican leader of the state House, Mike Turzai, said in an interview that the new map was "clearly partisan."

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has five Democratic justices and two Republicans and voted along strict party lines to throw out the old map.

In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesman for Democratic Governor Tom Wolf did not address the appeal, instead saying the governor was focused on ensuring the state was prepared to use the new map for May's primary elections.

Lawyers representing the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which filed the lawsuit that led to the court's ruling, said on Tuesday that any new litigation would waste taxpayer dollars.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday encouraged his fellow Republicans to contest the new map in court.

The case is one of several nationwide challenging partisan gerrymandering, in which lines are manipulated to bolster one party at the expense of another. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide similar cases from Wisconsin and Maryland this year.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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