Sup. Ct. May Block Pennsylvania Ruling Against Partisan Gerrymandering

Jeff Kubina/Public Domain

Justice Alito hinted that the appeal against Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruling has merit.

Last week's decision by Pennsylvania's highest court that struck down the state's heavily gerrymandered election districts could be see an intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The map was found to violate Pennsylvania's state constitution.

Unlike other recent rulings, the state justices said they based their ruling solely on the state’s constitution. Usually, the U.S. Supreme Court has no grounds for reviewing a state court ruling that is based on state law.

But leaders of the state legislature filed an emergency appeal with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to block the decision by January 31.

They said it conflicted with a provision in the U.S. Constitution that says members of the House will be elected under rules “prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” As precedent, their lawyers cited the Bush vs. Gore ruling in 2000 in which the justices overruled the Florida Supreme Court and ended a manual recount of thousands of paper card ballots.

In a move indicating the block could be granted, Alito sought a response from the League of Women Voters, who brought the initial complaint.

Alito, who reviews emergency appeals from Pennsylvania and two other states, could have denied the appeal if he thought it had no chance of being granted. But late in the day Monday, he asked for a response by Feb. 4 from the League of Women Voters.

His action suggests that he believes there is some prospect that a majority of his colleagues may grant the appeal.