WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last night, a three-judge panel presiding over a federal challenge to Pennsylvania’s new congressional map dismissed two out of three claims in the lawsuit. The case, filed in February on behalf of a group of Republicans (including voters, two candidates for Congress and a county elections official), sought to challenge the state’s new congressional map adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court following an impasse in the redistricting process. The plaintiffs argue that 1) state courts cannot adopt congressional maps because it “usurps” power away from state legislatures in violation of the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution; 2) state courts cannot modify election calendars as that is also within the power of state legislatures and doing so violates the Elections Clause; and 3) the congressional map adopted by the state Supreme Court violates the equal-population rule by having a two person deviation between districts. The plaintiffs argue that the only remedy, unless the General Assembly adopts a new map, is for Pennsylvania to hold at-large elections for congressional members. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ emergency request to block the congressional map adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the case went back to the three-judge panel.
On Wednesday night, the panel dismissed the two Elections Clause claims that promoted the independent state legislature doctrine after finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The panel held that all of the plaintiffs failed to assert a direct injury to themselves as a result of the state court impasse litigation. As to the voters, the panel pointed out that “Nothing is preventing them from voting, and their votes are not otherwise disadvantaged relative to those of the entire population of Pennsylvania.” The congressional candidates and county election officials are similarly not harmed by the state court’s actions, the panel found, and their asserted claims are simply generalized grievances “of their own making.” The plaintiffs’ third claim — that the districts are not equal in population — is currently facing a pending motion to dismiss by the defendants.