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Pa. Supreme Court Expected To Act Soon On Redistricting Order

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Pennsylvania is getting a new congressional map today one way or another. Today is the deadline the state Supreme Court gave itself to either pick a new map from a number of submissions or draw its own. The new map will replace one that drew congressional districts in a way that gave Republicans an advantage. And the GOP is now ready to resist the change. WITF's Katie Meyer reports.

KATIE MEYER, BYLINE: Last month, Pennsylvania's Democratic-majority Supreme Court declared the state's 2011 congressional map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans. Justices made a controversial call for lawmakers to redraw it in time for the 2018 election. That meant the GOP-controlled general assembly had three weeks to agree on new district lines, and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf had six days to review and approve them. Republicans immediately called the deadline unworkable. And as Senate Appropriations Chair Pat Browne noted that the time, it didn't help that the court announced its ruling then waited until two days before the legislature's deadline to give specific requirements.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAT BROWNE: Any guidance that's available to us to meet their stipulations as far as what they want is a total mystery to us, but we're trying to accommodate their ruling.

MEYER: Ultimately, justices said they wanted the map to be fairer and specified districts should be more compact and contiguous and should split fewer municipalities. That kicked off intense debate over what fairness really means. Senate GOP Leader Jake Corman decries the metric as totally subjective.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAKE CORMAN: There's not any standard in what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said or anywhere in the federal government or any court ever that says competitiveness is a standard.

MEYER: After running out of time to get legislative votes on new maps, House and Senate Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Governor Wolf and several other parties to the case submitted completely separate proposals to the court. They're all technically more compact than the current map and split fewer municipalities. But it's not clear how justices will assess them or even how seriously they'll consider them. Their order says if none of the maps are up to snuff, they'll turn to their own expert to draw maps for the court. Republicans say that amounts to justices usurping the legislature and governor's ability to draw congressional maps. Corman even called it a potential constitutional crisis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORMAN: We're going to have a Stanford professor come in to Pennsylvania. He's going to act as the prosecutor by presenting the evidence, the juror by evaluating the evidence, and he's solely going to act as a judge by producing a map for the people of Pennsylvania to live under.

MEYER: Corman says if the justices choose their own map today, the House and Senate GOP will sue in federal court. For NPR News, I'm Katie Meyer in Harrisburg.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLOUDKICKER'S "THREADED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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