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Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting Challenge is Dead

Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting Challenge is Dead

It’s always gerrymandering when it’s not your party drawing the maps.

All court actions challenging the controversial Pennsylvania Congressional redistricting maps were shot down Monday.

Early Monday, a three-judge federal panel rejected a Republican challenge to the new maps, which could cost the GOP as many as four Congressional seats.

The last hope of overturning the new maps rested in the hands of the Supreme Court, where a request for stay had been filed.

But it was not to be. Just a few hours later, SCOTUS denied the request for stay without dissent or comment.

From Politico:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied Pennsylvania Republicans’ request to stop the imposition of new congressional districts ahead of the 2018 midterms.

A statement from the court said a request to stay a ruling from the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court had been denied without comment or recorded dissent. The state Supreme Court ruled the previous map, drawn by Republicans in the state legislature and signed into law in 2011 by then-GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state’s constitution.

The court’s statement followed an order from a three-judge federal panel earlier Monday turning down a Republican request to halt the new map — essentially leaving Republicans with little recourse to stop the new district lines before the May 15 primary elections.

The filing deadline for candidates running under the new map is Tuesday. The new map, drawn by the state Supreme Court, weakens Republicans’ hold on a number of seats, especially in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The challenge to the maps was made for this very reason:

Behind the scenes, Republican consultants prepared their clients for the new maps to stand, even as GOP congressmen and state legislative leaders sought relief from the courts. One GOP incumbent who saw his district become more Democratic under the new lines, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), is reportedly considering retiring rather than filing for reelection before Tuesday’s deadline.

The media and Democrats are pouring tremendous resources into Pennsylvania in the hopes of proving the 2016 Trump-dominated rust belt is no longer Trump country.

Nevertheless, it’s always gerrymandering when it’s not your party drawing the maps.


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Hurray for lawfare. If the lefty courts are in charge, the state legislatures may as well go home.

So SCOTUS denied the stay – does that mean they have refused to hear the case?

Because this is just a fucking joke. They can absolutely reject the legislature’s map as unconstitutional, but there is literally NOTHING written ANYWHERE that would even imply that the court has any kind of authority to generate their own map and impose it on the state.

    tom_swift in reply to Olinser. | March 19, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Yes, this seems to be a serious power-grab. A court can—possibly—reject a new district map, but I’m aware of no legitimate grounds for it to draw one by itself.

    On the other hand, I suppose there’s nothing that “emanations of penumbras” can’t do.

      regulus arcturus in reply to tom_swift. | March 19, 2018 at 8:55 pm

      So how can that be challenged?

        It can’t be challenged, but it can be ignored if the legislature tell the courts FOAD. That requires backbone. The governor is a Democrat, so it would end up a real pissing match.

        A simple resolution from the lower chamber- “The courts have usurped legislative power, and their decision is to be ignored by all county clerks. Their decision has no basis in Pennsylvania law, and is not justified by the Pennsylvania Constitution. The legislative boundaries set by the constitutionally established redistricting commission will be used for the 2018 election.”

          regulus arcturus in reply to gospace. | March 19, 2018 at 9:30 pm

          This all seems incredibly dangerous abuse of power by the court.

          Milhouse in reply to gospace. | March 20, 2018 at 5:24 am

          The first half of your proposed letter might fly, but not the second half.

          The state supreme court is the final authority on what Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania constitution require, and the legislature has no right to challenge it. And your claim that the old boundaries were set by “the constitutionally established redistricting commission” is false. There is no such commission, and the boundaries were set directly by the legislature.

          The following letter, however, might fly in some counties: “The state Supreme Court has usurped legislative power, its decision is contrary to the US Constitution, and is therefore to be ignored by all county clerks. The legislative boundaries set by the legislature, as required by the US constitution, shall be used for the 2018 election. Any court order to the contrary shall be treated as ultra vires and ignored.”

          Each county clerk would then have to seek legal counsel. Most would be advised that it is a core constitutional principle that court orders must be obeyed, no matter what. Some lawyers might cite the First Circuit precedent that this principle does not apply when the order is transparently invalid, and a good-faith effort to appeal it has failed. Since (as far as I know) the Third Circuit has not expressed an opinion on the matter, this precedent might be called upon for tentative guidance. But they’d be risking the Third Circuit rejecting it and holding the clerks in contempt. They’d also risk the 3rd Circuit accepting this opinion but deciding that it doesn’t apply in this case because the order was not transparently invalid (or indeed invalid at all). So in the end I would expect almost all clerks to take the path of least resistance and comply with the court, which can throw them in prison, rather than with the legislature, which can’t.

          In the end your whole idea fails, though, because the resolution would have to come from the whole legislature, not just one chamber, and that means the governor could veto it.

          Milhouse in reply to gospace. | March 20, 2018 at 6:29 am

          Clarification. There is no “constitutionally established redistricting commission” for congressional districting. There is one, of course, for state districting.

          SDN in reply to gospace. | March 20, 2018 at 7:51 am

          “Most would be advised that it is a core constitutional principle that court orders must be obeyed, no matter what.”

          Of course, their neighbors might advise them that following unconstitutional courts means they might want to call a realtor.

          Milhouse in reply to gospace. | March 20, 2018 at 11:49 am

          SDN, do you seriously deny that obeying court orders is a core constitutional principle? Because even the first circuit only excepted orders that are transparently invalid, and even then only when a good-faith attempt has been made to appeal them.

      txvet2 in reply to tom_swift. | March 20, 2018 at 10:52 am

      But there is precedent – they pulled the same thing in Texas, although it effectively changed only one district.

R’s hold 59% of the Penn House and 68% of the senate you mean to tell me there is nothing legislative they can do….

    MarkS in reply to starride. | March 19, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Since the court has no authority to draw congressional districts, what is keeping PA from drawing a map and telling the court to shove it? Would the court send in Federal Marshalls or what?

    gospace in reply to starride. | March 19, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Pennsylvania Constitution Article VI
    Power of Impeachment
    Section 4
    The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment.

    Trial of Impeachments
    Section 5
    All impeachments shall be tried by the Senate. When sitting for that purpose the Senators shall be upon oath or affirmation. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present.
    Charge the judges with usurption or power and establishing a judicial tyranny. As soon as charges are laid, bring the case back to the PA SC. Judges under impeachment ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SIT IN COURT until and unless acquitted. Under the PA Constitution. Again- it required legislative backbone. I didn’t realize the PA Senate was 68% Republican. That’s enough to convict.

    Milhouse in reply to starride. | March 20, 2018 at 5:26 am

    R’s hold 59% of the Penn House and 68% of the senate you mean to tell me there is nothing legislative they can do….

    That’s right. 59% of one house and 68% of the other is not enough to override the governor’s veto.

“It’s always gerrymandering when it’s not your party drawing the maps.”

Three points…

1. some of us don’t belong to a party,

2. sometimes (as here) gerrymandering is so ugly that nobody can put up with the stink, inviting this kind of event, and

3. the legislature can fix this by drawing a less-cray-cray districting plan.

    The State GOP map was done by a group of political punks DRUNK on state and county power bases. It wholly disrespected and disregarded the good common sense advice — and fundamental charter imperative — of the Pennsylvania constitution which requires compact districts that respect municipal boundaries. So the court did to THEM, the power drunk fools of the Team PA GOP Team, what happens is any bar fight between drunkards. The less drunk or more powerful wins.

    Folks might know that in Pennsylvania it is common practice for the entrenched political machines — the GOP and the Democrats — to work together like the mafia bosses at infamous 1957 Italian Mob Apalachin Conference. In fact the PA political mafia predates the US Italian more by a few generations. BEFORE there was tap dancing in NYC’s Five Points, before the break out of the once Irish only need apply thugs into the more dapper mix of Irish-Italian-Jewish mobs out of Five Points, there was incredibly corrupt political machines in Pennsylvania and they have outlasted Tammany Hall. Why? They stayed local to PA. The two mobs sit together and negotiate which team gets the governorship, which team gets the Senatorial seats.

    On these redistricting forays: sheer brute bullying by the victor of the old spoils system. A system which has operated like an antique farm steam engine for many scores of years past normal “good till” date. Again, it works because it stays local. State and county local.

    In this case? The court showed it plays too.

      Milhouse in reply to bvw. | March 20, 2018 at 11:53 am

      the good common sense advice — and fundamental charter imperative — of the Pennsylvania constitution which requires compact districts that respect municipal boundaries.

      No, it doesn’t. The PA constitution says nothing at all about how the legislature should draw congressional boundaries. Nothing explicit, that is. The state supreme court has now found such instructions implied somewhere in the constitution’s general provisions, though it hasn’t yet said exactly where.

    gwsjr425 in reply to Ragspierre. | March 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

    This is the “I only gerrymandered a little” excuse while ignoring gerrymander is gerrymander. Those redrawn districts are gerrymandered….period.

      bvw in reply to gwsjr425. | March 20, 2018 at 8:51 am

      No the new districts drown by the court are not gerrymandered. To so brutally and slapdashedly redefine a plain meaning — a serpentine district mapped for political power, with that serpent-like twisting and narrowings being a fundamental characteristic of gerrymandered districts — is to act exactly as teh enemy wants. To instill chaos in discourse, by never allowing key term, a word, a term of art, to keep am honest and sacred meaning.

      In other words to play a Jacques Derrida or Antonia Gramsci deconstructionist game is to shoot yourself in the foot, in the groin and in the head. You hobble yourself, you castrate yourself and you empty your cranium of any value.

They also rejected Arizona’s challenge to the 9th circuit re driver’s licenses for illegals so we won what exactly? I confess to not getting how these 3 judge panels work but more importantly I want to know who is on them and how they voted. Anybody have insight into this? The fact that there are no dissents in these cases is making me think that Gorsuch was a closet liberal as worse case speculation surmised.

Welcome to representation by demo-rat judges (SCofPenna) … And the cowardly SCOTUS…

Starride, the legislature already did something, they drew the map as their constitution provides. It does not seem that the constitution provides for a court to draw a map, so that is already out of bounds. What would the legislature do, pass a law that says the court must follow the constitution? Why would the court care what the legislature passes?

Maybe the constitution could be amended to specifically state that the court cannot draw the map, or have any say in how the map is drawn. I’m guessing that would require more votes than they have, but I’m not sure the court would follow it anyway.

The core issue I see is that there is seemingly no way to hold the court to the constitution. Federal courts have no interest, I guess they’ll just let the states burn. Maybe the solution is to ignore orders that are not constitutional, but I bet then federal courts would suddenly care.

So now we are governed by a troika? Guess the new solution is to have a court with 9 conservative judges or why bother.

There were four possible redistricting maps in play, the old current one (favorable to R’s),
the alternate one put forward by the Dems (favorable to D’s, of course),
The theoretical one the court ordered the legislature to generate,
And the Court-imposed one now in play that the judges came up with when they decided the legislature was slow-walking the new map – and which is by most accounts even more favorable to the D’s then the one the D’s themselves asked for.

Unless the D’s were proposing a map still unfair to D’s (unlikely), it seems to me the court is guilty of the selfsame “crime” it was supposed to address. Perhaps not too much of a surprise, the Left has been using discrimination to address discrimination for decades, ignoring the fail inherent in just flipping the coin to the other side.

Gerrymandering is complicated, though. Splitting simular voting blocks (black or urban or rural or farmers) up is arguably a way to dilute their power and render their votes meaningless. Condensing simular voting blocks guarantees that block representation that will listen, but the concentration makes it less likely that other politicians outside that area will have to keep them happy.

Either way you can argue you’re robbing them of an effective voice.

And groups like the Congressional Black Caucus are uber conflicted, because they mostly hail from affirmative action (ie gerrymandered) districts which may reduce the D’s total power but effectively make their jobs secure for life……

    gospace in reply to BobM. | March 19, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    The old current one was already challenged in court and upheld by the PA SC. Under the PA Constitution, new challenges could not be brought until the next redistricting. The newly Democrat dominated PA SC violated the PA Constitution in multiple ways. One, they took a case their state constitution didn’t allow. Two, they ordered a redistricting take place that was not IAW the written constitution. And three, they drew their own which they do not have the authority to do under the state constitution. They also stated that the current districts, found constitutional already (Whatever happened to stare decisis?) by the PA SC was unconstitutional without explaining what in the state constitution made it unconstitutional, because there is nothing in the state constitution that makes it so.

    Reading the PA Constitution and reading what the PA SC did should absolutely infuriate you if you believe in the rule of law.

      Milhouse in reply to gospace. | March 20, 2018 at 5:38 am

      The old current one was already challenged in court and upheld by the PA SC.

      Really? When did this happen? Given your lie in the very next sentence, I don’t believe you.

      Under the PA Constitution, new challenges could not be brought until the next redistricting.

      Gospace, you are lying. Not mistaken, deliberately lying, because I already pointed out your mistake to you last time. The PA constitution does not say one word about federal districting, or about when it can be challenged. The challengers therefore had every right to bring their case whenever they liked, and the court had the right to decide it as it saw fit.

      The only ground for challenge is under the federal constitution, and that just failed.

This is exactly what led to the American Revolution; the government ignoring its constituents. If a populous can not get their representatives to listen to them, then they will use extreme measures to make them listen. Once that happens, all bets are off. This is dangerous stuff, people. Dangerous.

    bvw in reply to Mac45. | March 20, 2018 at 8:22 am

    No mob ignores its community. These jakes of legislators are not aristocrats. They are thugs, thugs with Lexuses and Bentlys but still, thugs.

Since the court has no authority to draw congressional districts, what is keeping PA from drawing a map and telling the court to shove it? Would the court send in Federal Marshalls or what?

1. The governor would veto any such attempt.

2. Not federal marshals, since it’s a state court. But it would order all county clerks to implement its map and ignore the legislature’s, and hold in contempt any who refused.

Why all of these ridiculous arguments?
Pennsylvania is one of a very few states with a lot more Democrats than Republicans but where a lot more elected legislators are Republicans than Democrats. Michigan is also notorious for this. In Texas, Republicans got a majority in the legislature and started a gerrymandering process at one time but Democratic legislatures left the state so that there would not be a quorum. Someone figured out where they were and they were arrested and brought home.
What is so wrong with one man one vote?
I am not a Democrat, but I do not think anyone should be denied equal treatment under the law because of “arbitrary” district boundaries. The districts are supposed to be compact and have a regular shape. The ultimate gerrymander twists amount to get as many members of the “out” party into the same district while making numerous other districts in which the “in” party has a slight majority. That is the problem in Pennsylvania and all othser gerrymandered states.

    Milhouse in reply to WildBill1948. | March 20, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    . The districts are supposed to be compact and have a regular shape.

    Says who? The constitution leaves federal elections up to each state legislature, unless Congress says otherwise. Congress used to give the state legislatures such an instruction, and when it did that instruction was binding, but for about the last century it has deliberately refrained; therefore state legislatures are free to do as they please, unless their state constitution says otherwise.

    PA’s constitution contains nothing explicit on the topic, so it’s been presumed that the legislature can draw whatever districts it likes, including for partisan advantage. That’s how the Ds did it when they had the majority, and nobody suggested they couldn’t. Now suddenly the PA supreme court found such instructions somewhere in the outer penumbra of some unspecified general provision, not in the explicit rules for districting of the state legislature. It has the authority to do that, but it doesn’t have the authority to draw its own map instead.

      bvw in reply to Milhouse. | March 20, 2018 at 7:34 pm

      Presumptions are like the free radicals of chemistry, and will be toxic to law unless carefully bound off, carefully and safely bound to either common sense (meaning either basic logic or old wisdoms carefully passed down from generation to generation) or to actual solid and thick history of legislation and precedent.

      In the PA Constitution there is indeed a prescription for drawing legislative districts: that they be compact and that they respect to a great degree the municipal boundaries. Yes, these two sections of how to do this particular type of something do not specifically bind in a reference to the national districts: but common sense and logic such standards clearly have is a matter of the intellectual and moral wealth of the commonwealth. To cast them aside presumptively is like a loose free radical destroying cellular DNA willy-nilly. It is a affront to the right of the citizens to a government that acts rationally.

      Yet it is true throughout history that august judges, seasoned legislators and respected executives find self-interest a far better binder for the free radicals of very nuance and special case what can be dreamed or expressed. So DESPITE the common sense and wisdom of the guidance in the PA Constitution, jakes of the law and homo sapiens arrogantus run rapidly to willful misrule for the sake of current power, emollients, or perversion. Such was like the US Supreme Court in Dred Scott, or in Texas V Lawrence. From such misrule of willful disregard for good guidance, are perverted chains of stare decisis forged, pounded into hardened rings and bind us all into insanity. Not good. Sad beyond sad.

        Milhouse in reply to bvw. | March 21, 2018 at 3:37 am

        What language is that written in? It strongly resembles English, but it’s word salad.

    As long as (D’s) are clustered in urban areas and (R’s) are spread out more evenly, any compact and non-gerrymandering looking voting districts WILL work against the (D’s) getting representation proportional to their statewide ratios. And (D’s) are clustered in urban areas.

    The only way to map against that result would be to slice each urban cluster up like a pie, grouping it with the surrounding suburbs. And if you think either the city or the country folk would be happy with that – you haven’t thought your cunning plan through.