That’s because the series of legal disputes that played out in the Keystone State took place largely within the state court system, with Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court having thrown out the former congressional maps and imposed its own for the 2018 midterm election.
The only time the U.S. Supreme Court was even tangentially involved in the Pennsylvania dispute was – consistent with Thursday’s decision – when it opted not to get involved. House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati appealed twice to the nation’s highest court to intervene when the state high court ruled against them, but both timesJustice Samuel Alito opted not to hear the case.
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania was one of a chorus of voices on the Democratic side lamenting the court’s ruling.
“It is a DISGRACE that the Republican Supreme Court majority has ruled gerrymandering is legal,” Boyle wrote on Twitter. “A total disgrace.”
To the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling was a vindication, proof that the courts had no business stepping in and throwing out the maps that the Legislature had drawn in the aftermath of the 2010 Census.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmation of what we’ve known all along: Democrat activists in black robes on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overstepped their bounds by painstakingly reading phantom requirements into the Pennsylvania Constitution,” acting party chairman Bernadette “Bernie” Comfort said in a statement. “[The court chose] to void the 2012 Congressional map and give itself the authority to act as a shadow legislature to force a Democrat-created partisan gerrymander on Pennsylvania.”
Following the 2016 congressional election in Pennsylvania, Republicans claimed a 13-5 edge in balloting for the state’s 18 districts. But after the 2018 election that used the new maps, three seats flipped to Democratic control, making the margin 10-8. Comfort argued that the 2018 outcome was precisely the point of the state court’s rulings.
“The 2018 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was a miscarriage of justice that was a gift to the court’s allies in the Democrat Party that sought any means necessary – even through extra-legal fiat – to obstruct the work of President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress.”
Because the Pennsylvania Legislature has been unable to agree on a new method of drawing congressional maps, the process used after the 2010 Census, in which legislative leaders of both parties convene to agree on a map, is expected to be used again after the 2020 Census.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday drew the ire of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has positioned himself in opposition to the Trump administration on a number of issues.
“If the Court won’t end partisan #gerrymandering then voters must,” Shapiro wrote on Twitter. “It’s time to elect and support leaders who make it a priority to rescue our democracy from the politicians and return it to the people.”
A commission created by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, meanwhile, has been holding periodic meetings this year with the goal of coming up with a new method for drawing congressional maps. The commission is due to report its findings this fall.
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