Pennsylvania congressional map in gerrymandering case is upheld by federal judges

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The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote ruled the current Congressional maps are unconstitutional. Image of Pennsylvania's congressional map. (MONTCO.today file photo)

A panel of federal judges upheld Pennsylvania’s congressional district map as constitutional in a 2-1 split decision on Wednesday.

In the majority decision, Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith ruled that the plaintiffs’ claim is a political question inappropriate for the courts, writes WHYY Lindsay Lazarski for Philadelphia Business Journal.

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“The structural change Plaintiffs seek must come from the political branches or the political process itself, not the courts,” wrote Smith.

In the case, a group of about 20 Pennsylvania voters from around the state claimed lawmakers intentionally rigged the map to favor Republicans over Democrats in an effort they believe violated the U.S. Constitution.

Their argument hinged on a novel interpretation of the Elections Clause, which grants state legislatures the power to set rules regarding the time, place, and manner of congressional elections.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the clause limits state government, though, to procedural rules, and prevents it from interfering with or manipulating election outcomes.

The court disagreed with the plaintiffs’ legal theory, and said that it’s the courts that should not interfere.

“When federal courts step in, however, they do so at the risk of muddying the waters — potentially providing state legislatures with enough cover to argue that their hands are tied by the courts and that they are not responsible for a controversial map,” wrote Smith.

Go to whyy.org for more context on how this decision relates to another recent ruling on gerrymandering in North Carolina.

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