In the Senate, Scarnati has said he will refuse to comply with court orders to share data meant to help the justices draw a map, and a rank-and-file Republican lawmaker is seeking cosponsors to sign onto an attempt to impeach the court's Democratic justices.
Democratic voters and their allies pressed ahead Wednesday to get more General Assembly districts changed before the fall elections, even though hours before the U.S. Supreme Court had weighed in on redrawn districts ahead of candidate filing in North Carolina. If no legislative plan is proposed by Friday that would receive approval from Gov. Wolf by February 15, the court will draw their own map.
"Our Court possesses broad authority to craft meaningful remedies when required...." wrote Justice Todd.
The legislative maps that Persily drew at a federal court's order aimed to correct some of the racial discrepancies, which would have the effect of giving Democrats a boost in this year's election. "The challengers asked the state court to block the use of five state House districts adopted by the Republican lawmakers a year ago for Wake and Mecklenburg counties and order them to use election districts drawn by Nathaniel Persily, the Stanford University professor hired by the federal court as a 'special master.' Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina Republican Party executive director, criticized the move as 'Hail Mary efforts by the other side'".
The Democratic majority on the court says the 2011 map put Republican partisan advantage above traditional redistricting criteria, violating the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections. "Because we have these new maps with better districts and because we have really energized candidates in a grassroots base, 2018 is looking to be the best year Democrats have had in quite a while", Meyer said.
The Court's opinion stipulates that congressional maps should be "composed of compact and contiguous territory; as almost equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population". They are seeking, Berman wrote, "to transform the state's courts by gerrymandering judicial maps to elect more Republican judges, preventing [Democratic Gov.] Cooper from making key judicial appointments, and seeking to get rid of judicial elections altogether".
The state House and Senate needs to enact H.B. A decision this week in a long-running redistricting case is set to give those efforts a boost. "I don't know", Yaw said. He also criticized the court for releasing its full opinion only two days before the impending deadline for lawmakers.
Drew Crompton, the Senate's top lawyer, told the Post-Gazette that the court's decision raised new questions, including how much politics can play a role in drawing maps. It is axiomatic that a diluted vote is not an equal vote, as all voters do not have an equal opportunity to translate their votes into representation.
"This opinion is hugely important for demonstrating the power of state constitutions to protect voting rights when the federal courts won't under the federal constitution", he said, adding that 26 states' constitutions include "free and equal" or "free and open" elections clauses.
Although the court acknowledged that federal courts have not been able to decide on a manageable standard for when partisan gerrymandering crosses a line and becomes unconstitutional under federal law, the opinion found that's not a barrier for state law. Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy - the only Republicans - filed separate dissents.
While the court delivered its order [text, PDF] finding that the electoral plan violated the Pennsylvania Constitution [text] on January 22, it did not provide a majority opinion until Wednesday.
It is time government started working for us again.