February 20, 2018 / 5:48 PM / 4 months ago

Republicans will sue to block court-drawn Pennsylvania congressional map

(Reuters) - State and national Republican officials will file a federal lawsuit as soon as Wednesday seeking to block a new Pennsylvania congressional map released on Monday by the state’s high court, the party’s congressional campaign arm said on Tuesday.

The new map would give Democrats better odds of capturing as many as half a dozen U.S. House of Representatives seats in Pennsylvania, where Republicans currently hold 13 of the 18 seats. The Democrats need to flip 24 seats nationally in November’s mid-term elections to retake control of the House.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court drew a new map for the state’s 18 congressional districts after previously invalidating the existing lines as an unconstitutional gerrymander, finding the Republican-controlled legislature drew them to marginalize Democratic voters.

“The suit will highlight the state Supreme Court’s rushed decision that created chaos, confusion, and unnecessary expense in the 2018 election cycle,” Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

The court stepped in after lawmakers and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf failed to reach consensus on a new map last week.

Republican U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday encouraged Republicans to sue.

“Hope Republicans in the Great State of Pennsylvania challenge the new ‘pushed’ Congressional Map, all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” he wrote on Twitter. “Your Original was correct! Don’t let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!”

Republican state legislature leaders said on Monday that implementing the map “would create a constitutional crisis.”

Lawyers representing the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which filed the lawsuit that led to the court’s ruling, said any new litigation would waste taxpayer dollars.

“Pennsylvania’s Republican leaders do not know when to quit,” the Public Interest Law Center, which represents the group, said in a statement. “Any attempts by them to run to federal court again to stop the new map are without any legal or factual basis.”

Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school, said courts in other states have drawn maps in advance of elections when necessary.

“It is the mother of all Hail Marys in terms of its likelihood to succeed for any number of legal and other reasons,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal of the Pennsylvania court’s initial ruling earlier this month.

FILE PHOTO - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf addresses the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Tom Brown

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