AP in US News
November 9, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A state-level challenge to how congressional districts were drawn by Republicans six years ago will proceed on a compressed schedule, a closely divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 9.

The Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision overturned a lower court judge’s ruling last month that had put the dispute on hold.

The order said the case “involves issues of immediate public importance” and gave Commonwealth Court only until Dec. 31 to issue findings of fact and legal conclusions.

“We are thrilled that Pennsylvania voters will have their day in court,” said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Public Interest Law Center and part of a team that represents the plaintiffs, a group that includes people who live in each of the 18 districts and the state’s League of Women Voters.

“I think the average citizen doesn’t have to do more than look at the distorted shapes of these districts to understand that something is very much amiss,” McKenzie said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai, the top-ranking Republicans in the Legislature, sought the delay, arguing a pending U.S. Supreme Court case should be resolved first.

“Although disappointed by today’s decision, the plaintiffs have not prevailed on anything but the right to be heard,” said Drew Crompton, a veteran Senate lawyer who is Scarnati’s chief aide. “Sen. Scarnati will defend the constitutional 2011 maps in Commonwealth Court and federal court over the next months. I continue to be stunned by the judiciary speed in light of the fact that it took six years for the plaintiffs to file these suits.”

Steve Miskin, a spokesman for Turzai, noted the map got some Democratic votes and predicted the challenge ultimately will fail.

“Regardless of when this action is heard or who hears it, the congressional map — which has been in effect for three congressional elections — will be upheld,” Miskin said.

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