On January 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed the Pennsylvania General Assembly three weeks—until today—to submit to the Governor a constitutional map for new congressional districts. As of early this evening, the General Assembly has not done so.
At oral argument before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January, attorneys for Senator Scarnati and Representative Turzai told the Court they could develop and enact a new map if given three weeks. In its January 22 order, the Court permitted the legislature just that: three weeks to pass a map and present it to Governor Wolf. To date, neither the public nor the full legislature has seen a proposed congressional map, there have been no hearings and there has been no public debate in either house of the General Assembly about such a map.
The General Assembly’s failure to pass a new map by today is a product of the legislative leaders’ recalcitrance and procrastination. As recently as January 31, Senator Scarnati told the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that its order was unconstitutional and that he did not intend to comply with it. Instead of working on a new map, the legislative leaders have wasted their time and the taxpayers’ money repeatedly filing frivolous legal motions in state and federal courts. Now that their last-ditch legal efforts have failed, they cannot be heard to complain that they need more time to comply with the order or that the Court did not give them enough time.
In its January 22 order striking down the current congressional plan and in its full opinion issued Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided for an orderly process and has now appointed a national expert to assist with selecting a new map should the General Assembly and the Governor fail to agree on a map. The Court is well positioned to issue a new map by February 19, as stated in its order.
Pennsylvania’s chief election officials have repeatedly assured the Court and the public that they can administer orderly elections on this schedule. Under the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order, the new congressional map will be in place three months before the primary and nine months before the general election. New maps have been implemented with even less lead time before a primary election in previous cycles.