The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday asked a federal judge to rule that the state legislative district maps in place for the past decade are unconstitutional and may not be used for elections. Revisions to the state’s legislative map that reflect population shifts shown in the 2010 census are in limbo because a new map was rejected by the state Supreme Court last week. A spokesman for Speaker Sam Smith said the federal lawsuit was filed to resolve the ensuing “chaos” the state court’s decision creates for candidates seeking to run in special elections to fill six House vacancies.
Smith, R-Jefferson, sued Secretary of State Carol Aichele in Philadelphia federal court, arguing that population changes since 2001 mean that the existing map violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as terms of the state Constitution. As speaker, Smith must schedule the special House elections.
“Without this remedy, the speaker would be required to perform a constitutional duty, issuing writs for special elections to fill vacancies in the House, in districts that do not meet constitutional requirements for elections,” Smith argued. Department of State press secretary Ronald G. Ruman said officials had not seen the lawsuit but added that Smith raised a fair question.