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Pennsylvania map case survives first challenge

by MARK SCOLFORO The Associated Press | February 24, 2018 at 2:39 a.m.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A new congressional map in Pennsylvania on Friday survived a request from eight of the state's Republican congressmen that federal judges throw it out immediately, but the case remained far from settled days before candidates will start collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot.

Hours after they were appointed to the case, a three-judge panel declined to temporarily hold up implementation of the map put in place by the state Supreme Court on Monday. The new map substantially overhauls a GOP-drawn one that has helped produce a predominantly Republican delegation and was widely viewed as among the nation's most gerrymandered.

The three federal judges laid out a schedule for the parties to elaborate on their legal positions, including a March 9 hearing in Harrisburg.

The panel, named pursuant to a federal law governing constitutional challenges to congressional reapportionment, consists of Judge Christopher Conner, a Pennsylvania-based district judge; Judge Jerome Simandle, a senior district judge from New Jersey; and Judge Kent Jordan, a circuit judge who was formerly a district judge in Delaware.

Conner and Jordan were chosen for the federal bench by President George W. Bush, while Simandle was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.

A lawyer who works for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday wrote to Conner on behalf of the elections officials, noting that the two senior Republican leaders in the Legislature have a request for a stay of the new map pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Deputy General Counsel Thomas Howell asked Conner to defer action on the congressmen's lawsuit until that request has been resolved.

Howell claimed that the lawsuit against Wolf's acting secretary of state and the head of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation has "significant hurdles" and is "rife with legal and factual errors."

The congressmen, joined by two Republican state senators, asked the federal court to require the use of a 2011 congressional district map, drafted by Republicans, for this year's primary and general elections. They argue the map the state justices announced Monday is biased in favor of Democrats, and that the justices did not give lawmakers sufficient time to produce their own replacement map.

In the parallel case, House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put the new map on hold, arguing state justices overstepped their authority. On Thursday, the leaders went back to the state Supreme Court to ask it to delay the map.

Wolf and other parties have been given until noon Monday to weigh in.

The 2011 map is widely considered to have helped Republicans maintain a 13-5 edge in the congressional delegation for three elections.

A Section on 02/24/2018

Print Headline: Pennsylvania map case survives first challenge

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