The Supreme Court Refuses To Protect Gerrymandered Pennsylvania Congressional Districts From A Redrawing Order

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The Pennsylvania GOP has been fighting tooth and nail to avoid an order by the state Supreme Court to redraw congressional districts before the 2018 primaries. This would almost certainly change the makeup of its federal delegation, currently 13 Republicans to 5 Democrats, despite a gap of only a few percentage points between the two parties in the 2016 elections. The PA GOP’s last hope was to have the federal government step in, with the U.S. Supreme Court overruling their state counterparts. But the U.S. Supreme Court has just made clear that hasn’t happened, and their other challenge, to the impartiality of a Democratic judge on the bench, is also falling apart.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania had no federal recourse, according to the Associated Press:

Justice Samuel Alito on Monday rejected emergency appeals from Republican legislative leaders and voters to block an order from the state Supreme Court to devise new congressional districts. The state high court ruled last month that the 18 districts violated Pennsylvania’s constitution because they unfairly benefited Republicans.

This is particularly attention-grabbing, for the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted several cases concerning partisan gerrymandering, on the heels of several major rulings about race-based gerrymandering. But on a state level, there was also a hope that public comments made by Judge David Wecht, a Democrat, that were negative towards gerrymandering, would let them throw out or retry the case. Unfortunately for the Pennsylvania GOP, Mother Jones quickly unearthed a much larger ethical issue — an undisclosed donation of $25,000 from Pennsylvania State Senate Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati to Republican Supreme Court Judge Sally Mundy:

Mundy filed a letter disclosing that a law firm involved in the case had donated to her campaign. But she never disclosed the donations from Scarnati, Fitzpatrick, or Dent. Mundy won reelection for a 10-year term less than a week later. “It’s a mistake,” Jim Mundy, the justice’s campaign treasurer and ex-husband, told Mother Jones Monday morning. Of Scarnati’s contribution, he said, “She is disclosing it as we speak.” According to Mundy, the campaign had pulled a list of individual contributors to her campaign for her to consider when making disclosures but did not include political action committees on that list.

This would largely be irrelevant: The state Supreme Court voted 5-2 against the map. The state legislature now has until February 9th, this Friday, to pass a map, and Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has until February 15th to pass it. The deadline to join a primary for federal office in Pennsylvania is March 6th.

(via Associated Press and Mother Jones)