Based on a 4-3 vote by the state Supreme Court, a congressional electoral map drawn by lawmakers is thrown out. The court substitutes its own map for the 2022 election. The new map tips the scales toward the Democratic Party.
The state in question is not North Carolina. It’s Pennsylvania.
Three days after North Carolina legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a legal dispute over the Tar Heel state’s congressional electoral map, the Keystone state plaintiffs followed suit Monday.
The Pennsylvania plaintiffs filed an urgent request for an injunction. They are challenging the congressional electoral map imposed by their state court.
“Under the U.S. Constitution, ‘the legislature’ of each state is responsible for prescribing ‘the times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives,'” according to the Pennsylvania court filing. “Yet on February 23, 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered state election officials to implement a court-selected map for the state’s 2022 congressional elections, despite the fact that the legislature of Pennsylvania has never endorsed this map or authorized the state judiciary to participate in the congressional redistricting process.
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ordered state election officials to disregard the general primary schedule enacted by the Pennsylvania legislature in favor of a court-preferred schedule that delays and compresses the period during which candidates may circulate and file nomination petitions,” the document continued. “State election officials intend to implement this court-selected map and judicially amended schedule for the upcoming primary elections, which are scheduled to be held on May 17, 2022.”
“But this course of action is patently unconstitutional and should be promptly banned,” the plaintiffs argued. “Under the election clause, it is ‘the legislature’ – not the judiciary – which must prescribe ‘the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives,’ and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania does not have the authority to impose a congressional card unless “the legislature” has authorized it to do so.”
Emergency appeals from the United States Supreme Court of Pennsylvania are headed to Judge Samuel Alito. He called for responses to the Pennsylvania case by the end of the business day Thursday.
That’s one day past the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline set by Chief Justice John Roberts to respond to a similar appeal from North Carolina.
On Friday, North Carolina legislative leaders asked Roberts to block a court-imposed congressional map for the Tar Heel state.
In that case, a 4-3 state Supreme Court rejected a Congressional electoral map drafted by Republican lawmakers. Political pundits characterized the original card as likely to elect 10 GOP members to the U.S. House of Representatives and four Democrats. Some have suggested the partisan split could be 11-3.
Political scientists and mathematicians working for critics of the map have argued that neutral redistricting criteria would be more likely to produce a 9-5 split.
Once the North Carolina Supreme Court ordered a redesigned map, the General Assembly responded with a plan emphasizing more competitive congressional districts. Proponents of the map called the corrective map a 6-4-4 plan, with six Republican seats secure, four Democratic seats and four districts likely to switch between major parties. The results could range from a 10-4 GOP advantage to an 8-6 split in favor of the Democrats.
A three-judge Superior Court panel overseeing the North Carolina redistricting dispute rejected that corrective map. With input from three outside appointees dubbed “special masters,” the panel adopted a map with fewer competitive seats.
The court card instead appeared to lock in more Democratic election wins. The map has been characterized as either a 7-7 map or a 7-6-1 map, with a true swing district that leans slightly towards the Democrats.
The North Carolina Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Republican legislative leaders to block the court-imposed map from trial judges.
Like the plaintiffs in Pennsylvania, the Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are asking the US Supreme Court for help.
“The federal constitution expressly provides that the mode of federal elections shall be ‘prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof,'” according to the North Carolina court filing. “Yet, barring immediate intervention by this Court, elections during the 2022 election cycle for the United States House of Representatives in North Carolina will be conducted in a manner mandated not by the General Assembly of the state, but rather by its courts.”The Constitution provides that the state legislatures” – not the “state judges” – “have the primary responsibility to fix the rules of elections”…and this Court should intervene to protect the constitutional grant of power over this matter of fundamental importance to our democratic system of government.”
The North Carolina and Pennsylvania cases have other similarities. Both states have primary dates of May 17 set by the courts. In both states, National Democratic Party Elections Advocate Marc Elias is working to secure benefits for his fellow supporters. Former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder is playing a behind-the-scenes role to benefit Democrats in both states.
“The United States Constitution gives the state legislatures exclusive power to establish the ‘times, places, and manners of holding elections for senators and representatives,'” said Jon Guze, senior legal studies fellow at the Foundation. John Locke “Despite the clarity of this provision, in recent years state courts and administrative agencies, in North Carolina and other states, have taken it upon themselves to replace election rules and electoral districts duly adopted by state legislatures by rules and districts of their own design.
“This kind of excess not only violates the Constitution; it also undermines public confidence in the electoral process,” Guze added. “The Supreme Court has missed several opportunities to address the issue in the past, which is unfortunate. Fortunately, these cases give the court another chance to restore the authority over elections that the Constitution gives to state legislatures.
The filing of applications in North Carolina is expected to end on Friday. It’s unclear how the U.S. Supreme Court’s involvement in the Congressional map dispute might affect the state’s election calendar.