Pennsylvania Supreme Court: equal, compact and contiguous districts are a constitutional requirement

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A Democratic justice's comments critical of gerrymandering should require him to remove himself from a case challenging Pennsylvania's congressional district map, Republican legislative leaders argued in a court filing on February 2.

Republicans have said their efforts to comply with the January 22 Supreme Court order have been hampered by the lack of clarity provided by that order about what would make the new maps legal.

The two leaders accused Supreme Court Justice David Wecht of bias and asked that he recuse himself or have the court invalidate his tie-breaking vote in November that put the case on a fast track. DEMOCRATS TRYING TO BREAK GOP SUPER-MAJORITIESIn a Facetime interview with ABC11, Durham and Orange County Democrat Graig Meyer defended his party's decision to keep fighting for the new maps in court.

The court found the state's congressional district boundaries to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed previous year by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and several Democratic voters challenging the map under the state constitution's equal protection and free speech guarantees.

"...the Court's remedy threatens the separation of powers by failing to allow our sister branches sufficient time to legislate a new congressional districting map, potentially impinges upon the due process rights of the parties at bar as well as other interested parties, and foments unnecessary confusion in the current election cycle", wrote Baer.

Corman noted that the state Supreme Court has hired an expert from California, Nathaniel Persily, from Stanford Law School, to assist in their efforts to come up with new maps if the Legislature fails to provide them with one to review.

Attorneys for law firms representing the petitioners agreed that other states could follow the Pennsylvania model.

Partisan gerrymandering has resulted in political gridlock. The first algorithm used traditional districting criteria only: population equality; contiguity; compactness; absence of splits within municipalities, unless necessary; and absence of splits within counties, unless necessary.

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In the Senate, Scarnati has said to share data meant to help the justices draw a map, and a rank-and-file Republican lawmaker is seeking cosponsors the court's Democratic justices.

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Updike Mundy [opinions, PDF] each filed dissenting opinions.

A full opinion released by the Supreme Court late Wednesday didn't do much to move the ball forward as far as clarity is concerned, said Michael Dimino, a law professor at Widener Law Commonwealth.

"The five justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution engaged in misbehavior in office", GOP Rep. Cris Dush said in a letter to all Pennsylvania House members on Monday.

He said it would be "very difficult" to pass legislation with new maps by Friday - the court-imposed deadline for doing so.

The voters who successfully challenged the Pennsylvania map argued in a filing before the U.S. Supreme Court that their case was decided based on the state constitution, so federal courts should give deference to the ruling.

"A diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation".

"... I am troubled by the Majority's decision to strike down the 2011 congressional map on the eve of the 2018 midterm election".

Competition also has suffered under the Republican-drawn maps. Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal filed by Republican lawmakers. Article I, Section 5 of the state constitution says "elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage".

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