Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Congressional Districts on State Law Grounds; And There’s a Longshot Theory to Get SCOTUS Review

Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on state law grounds held the state’s congressional districting violated the state constitution. It ordered the state legislature to submit a plan with compact and contiguous districts.  If it can’t get a plan signed by the (Democratic) governor, the Pa courts will draw the maps.  (Two Justices dissented.)

This case is separate from a federal constitutional case (Agre v. Wolf) that is on its way to SCOTUS. That case may be mooted by today’s state ruling.

I leave to others whether the Republican legislature and Democratic governor would be able to agree on a plan.

But Republicans have already said they will appeal today’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. At first blush, it looks like there would be no basis, as this case is under the Pa. Constitution, and the state supreme court is the final arbiter of what that means. However, as I’ve noted, the state legislature may argue that Article I vests in the state legislature, and not the state courts, the power to set the rules for congressional elections (subject to congressional override). These kinds of arguments have not done well in recent years (think of the Arizona redistricting case), but perhaps that’s what the Republicans have in mind. Shades of Bush v. Gore. The argument is a long shot but not an impossible one.

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