A group, including a pair of Republican candidates for office, Monday submitted an emergency application for a writ of injunction, asking the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of a new congressional map in Pennsylvania.
The application was submitted just a few weeks after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered state election officials to implement a court-selected map for the state’s 2022 congressional elections, and three days after U.S. District Judge Jennifer P. Wilson in Harrisburg denied petitioners’ request for a temporary restraining order against the map. The petitioners argue that the 17-district map is more favorable to Democrats than the map passed by both Republican-controlled houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The legislature’s map was vetoed by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
In its emergency application, petitioners argue that the actions of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania were unconstitutional because under “the Elections Clause, it is ‘the Legislature’—and not the judiciary — that must prescribe ‘the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,’ and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ha[d] no authority to impose a congressional map unless ‘the Legislature’ has authorized it to do so.” Petitioners also argued that the map violated the equal-population rule of Wesberry v. Sanders and that the court overstepped its powers by ordering changes to the election calendar.
Pennsylvania had to re-draw its congressional map after the state lost a seat in the House of Representatives due to sluggish population growth. The petitioners argued that the legislature’s map was fair to both parties, but Wolf wrote in his veto message that the proposed map “fail[ed] the test of fundamental fairness,” and that several communities were split in a manner “that [did] not appear to be motivated by compelling legal principles, but rather by a desire to make districts more favorable to Republican candidates.”
Unless the legislature and Wolf can agree on a new map, petitioners want the 17 congressional candidates to run at-large, which would cause voters throughout the state to decide Pennsylvania’s 17 representatives in the House.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was split down party lines on its decision to draw a new map, with the five Democratic justices voting for a new map and three Republican justices voting against it. The writ names Wolf, Director of the Bureau of Election Services and Notaries Jessica Mathis, and Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman as defendants. If the application survives a motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds, the U.S. Supreme Court asked for a response from the State by next week.