Top Pennsylvania Republicans are fighting back Friday.
Pa. State Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, is demanding a pair of Democratic Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from the ongoing case over partisan gerrymandering, alleging political bias. This, after Scarnati defied a court order Wednesday to hand over voter records used to draw the state's Congressional maps in 2011, citing the lack of a formal court opinion.
"Justice (David) Wecht’s unequivocal statements regarding gerrymandering, calling it an “abomination”, establish that even before he was elected to the Supreme Court, his mind was made up," Scarnati said in a statement Friday. Justice Christine Donohue is also mentioned in Scarnati's statement.
Gov. Tom Wolf sided with voters during a stop Thursday on his statewide "Listening Tour," in which he gains feedback about the maps from Pa. residents.
"When I get that map, when I get the chance to weigh in on this, I'm doing what the people of Pennsylvania want," Wolf said during a stop at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
The case centers around Pennsylvania's 18 Congressional districts Republicans created seven years ago that Democrats say heavily favors the GOP. Critics argue the state's 7th Congressional District looks like "Goofy kicking Donald Duck." Republicans control 13 of those 18 seats, but Democrats control the state's Supreme Court, which is requiring state lawmakers to re-draw the maps by next Friday, Feb. 9.
"It's my understand that both caucuses are participating in good-faith negotiations," said State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Millcreek.
Wolf has until Feb. 15 to OK the maps, or else the justices will do it themselves.
"In the end, I need the people of Pennsylvania to feel that this is fair," Wolf said.
The move could shake up the Erie County political landscape. Right now, Congressmen Mike Kelly and Glenn Thompson share the county. But the Court has ordered those new maps be divided on county lines, when possible.
"I don't want to even be cautiously optimistic about this," Bizzarro said. "We're in uncharted waters right here."
Republicans argue that next week's turnaround is too quick, which would be three weeks from the state Supreme Court's ruling. They have asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, which would delay such a rushed process. Democrats want the new map before the May 2018 primary election. It's uncertain whether the U.S. Supreme Court would hear the case because the violation in question concerns the Pennsylvania Constitution. A decision could be made as soon as Monday.
But, because the Pa. Supreme Court never filed a formal opinion for that Jan. 22 ruling, it could make for a busy and likely contentious week ahead of their deadline, which is now one week away.