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Pennsylvania GOP Take Gerrymandering Case To U.S. High Court

J. Scott Applewhite
People stand on the plaza of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington to attend arguments Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Pennsylvania GOP are asking the high court to take on the state's controversial gerrymandering case.

Pennsylvania's top Republican lawmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday to stop an order by the state's highest court in a gerrymandering case that threw out the boundaries of its 18 congressional districts and ordered them redrawn within three weeks.

Republicans who control Pennsylvania's Legislature wrote that the state Supreme Court justices unconstitutionally usurped the authority of lawmakers to create congressional districts and they asked the nation's high court to put the decision on hold while it considers their claims.

The 22-page filing acknowledged that "judicial activism" by a state supreme court is ordinarily beyond the U.S. Supreme Court's purview. But, it said, "the question of what does and does not constitute a 'legislative function' under the Elections Clause is a question of federal, not state, law, and this Court is the arbiter of that distinction."

Pennsylvania's case is happening amid a national tide of gerrymandering cases from various states, including some already under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. Some election law analysts call the Republicans' request for the U.S. Supreme Court's intervention a "long shot."

On Monday, Pennsylvania's Democratic-controlled Supreme Court granted a major victory to registered Democratic voters who had contended that the congressional districts — drawn by Republicans who controlled the state Legislature and governor's office in 2011 — were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

Pennsylvania's map of badly contorted congressional districts had been used in three general elections going back to 2012. Critics say it was instrumental in helping Republicans maintain a large Republican advantage in Pennsylvania's congressional delegation — 13 Republicans to five Democrats — in a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 5 to 4.

In arguing for the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, Republicans cite the court's rulings that stopped a recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court following the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.