February 22, 2018 / 10:09 PM / in a month

Pennsylvania Republicans file second challenge to new congressional map

(Reuters) - Pennsylvania Republicans, including eight U.S. congressmen, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging a new congressional map created by the state’s top court, in the party’s latest effort to block the map from taking effect ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

The lawsuit, filed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, accused the state’s Supreme Court of violating the U.S. Constitution, first by invalidating the old map and then by drawing its own lines after Republicans and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf could not reach an agreement.

“We are unwilling to acquiesce to the court’s attempt to hijack the functions of the legislative and executive branches,” Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican, said in a statement.

The complaint came one day after Republican legislative leaders filed a separate emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court rejected a similar petition earlier this month.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January threw out the existing congressional lines, which created bizarrely shaped districts that earned derisive descriptors like “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.” The court’s Democratic majority found the Republican-controlled legislature had deliberately drawn them in 2011 to marginalize Democratic voters in violation of the state constitution.

The new map, which the court released on Monday, is expected to increase Democrats’ chances of flipping up to half-a-dozen seats in Pennsylvania, where Republicans have held 13 of 18 congressional seats since 2011.

Democrats need to win 24 seats nationwide in November to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republicans.

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which filed the original lawsuit that led to the state Supreme Court’s decision, criticized the lawsuit as a waste of taxpayer money.

“This new federal lawsuit is the latest in a series of vexatious tactics by Pennsylvania Republican leaders attempting to cling to the unconstitutional 2011 map,” Stanton Jones, a lawyer for the group, said on Thursday.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that backs Democrats in redistricting fights, will also seek to intervene.

“This is a shameless attempt by Republicans to defend an unjust status quo that keeps themselves in power but deprives voters from having a meaningful choice in congressional elections,” Holder said in a statement.

The case is one of several nationwide challenging so-called partisan gerrymandering. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide similar cases from Wisconsin and Maryland by this summer.

Reporting by Joseph Ax

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