On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a request from Republicans in the Pennsylvania state legislature to halt an order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to redraw the state's heavily gerrymandered congressional map. Last month, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 on party lines to throw out the congressional map drawn by the GOP-led legislature in 2011, which has led to Republicans holding the same 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Pennsylvania.
A nonpartisan map, election law experts say, would likely result in Democrats picking up as many as three seats, helping their bid to retake control of the U.S. House this fall. The U.S. Supreme Court decision, handed down by Justice Samuel Alito without consulting with the full court, raises the chances that the 2018 elections will be held using a new map. The state Supreme Court gave the legislature until Friday to submit such a map to Gov. Tom Wolf (D), and if he doesn't approve their version by Feb. 15, the court will draw its own map with the help of an outside expert.
The two top Republicans in the legislature, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turazai, said they would attempt to comply with the tight deadline "but may be compelled to pursue further legal action in federal court." Another GOP lawmaker, state Rep. Cris Dush, circulated a petition among his colleagues to impeach all five Democratic justices. Republicans also want two Democratic justices to recuse themselves because of their previous criticism of gerrymandering, while Democrats note that Republican Justice Sallie Mundy got $25,000 for her election last year from Scarnati's PAC, a donation she disclosed only Monday after media reports.
The U.S. Supreme Court typically declines to interfere with state judicial decisions. It has stayed federal anti-gerrymandering rulings in Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin this judicial season while it considers at least two of those cases.