On January 25, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, said the new redistricting plan for both houses of the state legislature is unlawful. The order is only two pages, and does not say what is wrong with the plan, but says an explanation will follow. The Court also ordered that the old district lines be in place until a new plan is approved. Finally, the Court extended the petition deadline for candidates running in Pennsylvania primaries by two days, from February 14 to February 16.
The dissent is only one page. The legislative redistricting plan that was invalidated was created by the Pennsylvania Reapportionment Commission, which consists of the State Senate Majority Leader, the State Senate Minority Leader, the State House Majority Leader, the State House Minority Leader, and a fifth member who is chosen by the other four. However, when the other four can’t agree, then the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints the fifth member. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has had to appoint the fifth member in 2011, 2001, and 1991.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is itself elected on a partisan basis, and has four Republicans and three Democrats. Generally, Democratic Party activists didn’t like the plan, and Republicans did. All three Democratic justices, and one Republican justice, voted against the redistricting plan. The other three Republican justices dissented. Thanks to Rick Hasen for this news. Professor Hasen asks how long it will be before a voter files a lawsuit in federal court, saying the 2001 redistricting plan can’t be used because the districts aren’t equal in population, since they are based on the 2000 census, not the 2010 census.