Sen. Joe Scarnati, as the Pennsylvania Senate Pro Tempore, and I, as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, filed an Emergency Application for a Stay with the United States Supreme Court this week.
Our application makes clear that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not have the power to invalidate the constitutional, democratically passed congressional map.
In allowing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to invalidate federal congressional lines and to draw lines of their own, the U.S. Supreme Court will allow chaos to ensue throughout the United States in the coming years where politically connected litigants can go running into state Supreme Courts to invalidate congressional maps.
These litigants will do so to stop legislative agendas with which they do not agree.
Please note that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the 2011 Pennsylvania congressional map by a vote of 136-61, with 100 Republicans voting “yes” and 36 Democrats voting “yes.”
Passing the bill requires 102 votes. This map was the result of bipartisan work between representatives elected by their constituents.
We have now used the existing maps for three straight elections. It wasn’t until President Donald Trump was elected that a flurry of liberal activists began challenging congressional maps across the country, including Pennsylvania.
Keep in mind that a three-judge federal court panel in the Agre case upheld the 2011 Pennsylvania congressional map as constitutional with respect to the U.S. Constitution on Jan. 10.
Less than two weeks later, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the 2011 Pennsylvania congressional map on the basis of the state constitution – which has no explicit language addressing the drawing of congressional district lines. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court did this on a partisan 5-2 Democrat-to-Republican split. One of the justices actually campaigned on invalidating the Pennsylvania congressional map before being elected to the bench.
In the Feb. 21 edition of The Wall Street Journal, the editors opined in a piece entitled “Pennsylvania’s Redistricting Coup.”
The editorial concludes: “Republicans plan to ask federal courts to enjoin the map, as they should. The U.S. High Court last month declined a request to intervene, perhaps giving deference to state judges’ interpretation of state law. But the judge-drawn map violates the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, which provides that “[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.
“State judges can’t usurp the legislature’s authority over redistricting willy-nilly. The Supreme Court ought to block this judicial coup d’etat, but be warned. Pennsylvania will be the future in every state if the Justices decide that judges should be redistricting kings.”
State Rep. Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican, is Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He writes from Harrisburg.