Advocates are trying to fast-forward court action on changing Pennsylvania’s congressional map — considered among the most distorted in the nation — before the important 2018 elections. A state judge overseeing a suit by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania wants to hold off any action pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case out of Wisconsin, but the league is asking the state high court to fast-track the case. In a hearing earlier this month, Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pelligrini made clear he did not see the case being decided before the 2018 elections, saying, “I can tell you it isn’t going to happen.” On Monday he ordered a stay in the league’s suit. “The idea that we would have yet another election that takes place under a map that violates people’s constitutional rights to vote, that’s not acceptable,” Mimi McKenzie, legal director at the Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, which is representing the league, said Thursday.
The league sued the General Assembly and its Republican leadership, saying Pennsylvania’s map is an extreme example of partisan gerrymandering that discriminates against Democrats. Republicans have 13 of the 18 Pennsylvania seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, even though the state’s voters are fairly evenly split between the parties, and test after test suggests the map is intentionally designed to favor Republicans.
With time working against the league, it has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take over the case and fast-track it, a power the court has but rarely uses.