It’s on: U.S. Supreme court paves way for Congressional redistricting

The 7th District as we knew it is no more, following Monday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to consider a stay to a state Supreme Court ruling that said the state’s Congressional district violated the state Constitution.

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Nah, nah, nah, — nah, nah, nah — heeeeeey, goodbye.

No, we’re not talking about the Patriots’ hopes for a Super Bowl win over the mighty Philadelphia Eagles, but rather the future of the 7th Congressional District, a district that cuts through the middle of Chester County and is widely seen as the single-most Gerrymandered Congressional district in the entire United States.

The map had been ruled unconstitutional — under the state constitution — by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ordered the state legislature to draw up new maps by this week and submit them to Gov. Tom Wolf and get his sign off — and if they failed, the court would appoint a special master to draw up new district boundaries. But Republicans balked — refusing to supply the court with municipal and precinct information and seeking a stay of the ruling from the federal courts.

Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Samuel Alito, who oversees the Third Federal District, declined to take up an appeal for a stay of by Pennsylvania Republicans — meaning that the state court ruling will stand and the legislature has just days to come up with a new map. Whether state Senate Republicans will face criminal contempt charges from the state Supreme Court for failing to follow its order remains to be seen.

Wolf, in a statement, applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to take up the case.

“The U.S. Supreme Court correctly recognized that there is no reason to delay implementing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order,” Wolf said. “Now, all parties must focus on getting a fair map in place. Gerrymandering is wrong and we must correct errors of the past with the existing map. My team is ready, willing and able to work with the General Assembly to ensure a new map is fair and within the clear orders given by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

This throws the entire local Congressional map in the air — it is likely that all three Chester County districts — the 7th, 6th and 16th — will be changed a great deal and some candidates for those seats may find themselves no longer living in the district they planned to seek office in. It also will make the 6th and 7th — both “tweaked” in 2011 by the state legislature to make them more Republican friendly — much more likely battleground districts.

It was that tweaking — Gerrymandering — that may have violated the state Constitution by failing to create “compact” districts as specifically required. The meandering 7th — the worst example, but not the only — snaked through a dozen counties, cutting up municipalities and was commonly referred to as looking like “Donald Duck kicking Goofy.”

While U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7) already announced he would not seek reelection this year, following a scandal involving a harassment payout to a former staffer, U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6) already faced a difficult race against likely Democratic challenger Chrissy Houlahan from Devon.

The new district boundaries should be clear by month’s end — either the legislature will create new maps, or the court will create its own and implement them. There is not expected to be any change in either the nominating petition deadlines or the May primary date.

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