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Congressional map lawsuit may be too late for 2018 elections

| Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, 7:39 p.m.

HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania judge said Wednesday his court was unlikely to decide a civil case challenging the constitutionality of the state's congressional district maps in time to affect next year's elections.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini did not immediately rule after the hearing on a request to delay the case while the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the role of partisanship in drawing legislative district lines.

The judge also put off consideration of a separate request by several Republicans who are active in political campaigns, seeking to join the litigation.

Pellegrini said he saw his role as teeing up the lawsuit for consideration by a full panel of the court, which could involve a trial. But he said it was not likely to be resolved before the spring primary season, and any appeal to the Supreme Court would extend it further.

Jason Tochinsky, a lawyer for legislative Republican leaders who are among the defendants, said the case could be affected by how the Supreme Court rules in a challenge to Wisconsin's legislative districts, argued on Tuesday.

"We're just asking you to take a breath," Tochinsky said. "We think this court should get this case right and not rush."

The lawsuit filed in June by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania concerns congressional districts drawn up by Republican leaders in 2011 and signed into law by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, also a Republican.

Republicans currently represent 13 of 18 congressional districts in Pennsylvania, despite winning about half the statewide votes in the past three elections.

David Gersch, representing the plaintiffs, said they were willing to strip down the case a bit in order to get it resolved more quickly.

The lawsuit filed in June said partisan gerrymandering is among the greatest threats to modern American democracy and suggested Pennsylvania's map was one of the worst examples of it.

Congressional maps in Maryland, North Carolina and Texas are also the subject of gerrymandering lawsuits.

New maps will be drawn up following the 2020 census.

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