Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Supreme Court ends Pennsylvania election map debate

October 29, 2018 by Scott Bomboy


Without comment, the Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans about a new election map for congressional races mandated by the state’s Supreme Court.

The appeals petition in Turzai v. League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania was filed with the Court back in June, after a divided state Supreme Court decided that lawmakers drew a 2011 election map that was a partisan gerrymander, or an attempt to balance the electoral scales in favor of the Republican Party.

The new election map of 18 House districts was used in state’s primary elections and will be used in next Tuesday’s general election.

The petition from Pennsylvania House speaker Mike Turzai argued the state Supreme Court exceeded powers granted to it under the Pennsylvania state constitution and the federal constitution normally reserved to state lawmakers.

“Faced with remedying what it perceived to be a Republican Party friendly ‘gerrymander,’ the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with a Democratic Party majority, drew a Democratic Party-friendly gerrymander,” his attorneys argued to the Court. “That should concern anyone, and when it is at the expense of a federally mandated balance of power, it should concern this Court.”

The federal Supreme Court had declined to act on earlier appeals from state GOP officials to intervene in the dispute, so Monday’s decision wasn’t surprising to Court watchers. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s judgment was based only on the state’s constitution.

The GOP has repeatedly won 13 out of 18 congressional seats in every congressional election held in Pennsylvania since 2011.

The new map was made public back in February after being drawn up by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 4-to-3 split vote.  The court determined its own version of House district lines after striking down the 2011 plan as a partisan gerrymander in January.

Scott Bomboy is editor in chief of the National Constitution Center.


Sign up for our email newsletter