Pa. Democrats, others send congressional redistrict plans to Supreme Court
Without an agreement on a Pennsylvania congressional map, parties in the gerrymandering case submitted proposed maps directly to the state Supreme Court.
A slew of proposals were submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday as the clock ran out for the state legislature to draw a new map of congressional districts and have it approved by Gov. Wolf.
Now it's up to the high court to adopt its own reconfigured map by Monday — or sooner — and write the next, but probably not last, chapter in the historic gerrymandering case. Republican lawmakers, who had proposed a map that Wolf vetoed Tuesday, have vowed to fight any new map the court chooses.
The House Democratic caucus was the first to file a proposal Thursday for how the 18 district boundaries should be redrawn to more fairly represent the state's voters. Senate Democrats followed later in the day, as did Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and a group of Republican voters and local officials.
The voters who brought the legal challenge to what had been the district map submitted two map proposals Thursday night. The governor was expected to file his version of the district map before midnight.
The flurry of activity started with last month's Supreme Court ruling overturning the previous map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The justices had given lawmakers until last Friday to give Wolf a new, fairer map to approve, or threatened to impose their own — a tactic that top Republican lawmakers have contended was illegal.
But after Wolf on Tuesday rejected the map they proposed, there was little movement to negotiate a map that could pass through the General Assembly. Neither the House nor the Senate was called into session Thursday.
Republicans said they would not be submitting a new plan, standing by the one submitted by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) and rejected by Wolf.
Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, blamed the Democratic-dominated court for imposing a difficult schedule.
"The majority in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made it impossible to pass legislation to get this done; their timeline was unrealistic," he said.
Bill Patton, spokesman for House Democrats and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny), noted that "there has been no plan from the General Assembly as a whole."
Miskin said that when Wolf rejected the GOP proposal, he did not attempt to work out an agreement on how to change it: "He clearly has no interest in doing that with the map," the spokesman said.
Immediately after House Democrats submitted their map, Miskin had criticized it as "showing that urban, elitist disdain for rural Pennsylvania," pointing to a "claw" district around Pittsburgh and the proposed Sixth District, which would cover all of Chester County, the northwestern edge of Delaware County, and reach into Berks County to connect to Reading.
The map submitted by House Democrats would also reconfigure the controversial Seventh District —now represented by Rep. Pat Meehan, a Republican, and snaking in and out of five counties — to cover most of Montgomery County, likely creating a strong Democratic seat. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received 58.9 percent of votes in Montgomery County and President Trump received 37.4 percent.