U.S. Supreme Court rejects challenge to Pennsylvania electoral map

WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a Republican former congressman’s challenge to a map showing the districts of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as the state’s highest court adopted in place of that established by Republican legislators.

Judges refused to hear an appeal of a ruling by Pennsylvania’s highest court approving a map backed by a group of Democratic voters after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a plan passed by the Pennsylvania legislature state with a Republican majority.

Pennsylvania has 17 House districts – one fewer after the state lost its population in the last national census taken in 2020.

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The appeal of the February ruling was filed by former U.S. Representative Ryan Costello, who argued that the U.S. Constitution limits the ability of state courts to interfere with maps or rules passed by state legislatures to federal elections.

Costello, who served in the House from 2015 to 2019, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case alongside a similar case in North Carolina, which it accepted in June of hear to “curb unconstitutional interference by state courts in congressional redistricting decisions.” .”

The North Carolina case, like the Pennsylvania case, involves a map drawn by a Republican-led legislature that a state high court rejected in favor of a different, court-approved redistricting plan .

In March, the Supreme Court refused to block the use of court-approved maps in both states in the primaries and the upcoming Nov. 9 midterm elections, which will determine whether Democrats retain control of the House. the United States. Read more

But the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, agreed later in June to hear the case in North Carolina, which seeks to revive a map drawn by Republican state lawmakers. Read more

In the case of Pennsylvania, a group of Democratic voters had argued that it was necessary for the judiciary to step in and draw new districts before the start of the 2022 election cycle after the legislature and governor failed to managed to reach a compromise on a map.

Costello’s defense of the legislature’s map rests on a controversial legal theory called the “independent state legislature doctrine” that is gaining traction in conservative legal circles and, if accepted, would dramatically increase government control. politicians on the conduct of elections.

Four of the six conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices have already expressed an interest in the court deciding whether state courts have the power to overrule rules passed by a state legislature for use in federal elections. .

Costello also argued that under a separate federal law, Pennsylvania should now be required to hold general elections until the state’s congressional districts are redrawn in a way he considers as legal.

Wolf’s attorneys and the state’s secretary of state in a brief had urged judges to deny Costello’s motion, saying he hadn’t raised his case at the state court level and hadn’t no legal capacity to pursue the case.

The dispute is one of several legal battles in the United States over the composition of electoral districts, which are redrawn every decade to reflect demographic changes measured in a national census. In most states, this redrawing is done by the ruling party, which can lead to map manipulation for partisan purposes.

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Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nathalie Raymond

Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reports on federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

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