Pennsylvania can still use its decade-old legislative district maps for its upcoming primary elections, after a federal judge Wednesday rejected state Republican leaders’ demands to declare them unconstitutional.
U.S. Eastern District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick said “a delayed election this year could deprive Pennsylvania voters of their right to choose delegates to the national conventions and their candidate for president,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The federal ruling rejected an appeal by state Republicans over a Jan. 25 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that rejected the state’s newest district maps, saying they were unconstitutional because they tore apart too many districts. The state court told lawmakers to use existing districts, drawn in 2001, until a new district map is approved.
Republican leaders, including House speaker Sam Smith; Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi; and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai claimed population shifts over the past 10 years violated equal representation rules.
It hasn’t yet been determined yet if voters will indeed elect the state’s representatives and senators according to the old lines. Turzai said he’ll try to push a new map through before the April 24 primary, or he’ll work to postpone the election. Turzai said the Legislative Reapportionment Commission will vote on a redrawn map on Feb. 22.
Keeping the 2001 maps through the primary benefits Democrats because they’ll be able to keep several key seats. Several Western Pennsylvania districts were to be moved east, which could have lost key Democratic holdings in the Pittsburgh area.
State law allows a 30-day appeal period for the new maps, but Turzai said he’ll argue for a shorter period. Democrats, though, will likely oppose efforts to shorten the timetable.
Democratic House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, meanwhile, said using the 2001 district lines is “ the only logical conclusion that will give certainty to voters who deserve to know in a timely manner which candidates will appear on the primary ballot.”
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