In a surprise to Democrats this week, the state’s Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which will now give too much influence to a lower conservative court in determining the new maps, rather than the upper Democratic majority. Tennis Court. Now, many House Democrats worry that their party’s carefully refined litigation strategy may backfire, complicating an already messy battle to redraw the maps of their state — even as Elias and his team insist there are no faults.
“This is the first time I’ve been nervous about redistricting,” said one of the people closely involved with the Pennsylvania Democrats, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing legal process.
Both Elias and the Democratic National Redistricting Committee, which oversees the party’s legal efforts, said lawsuits should first be filed in a lower, more conservative court. But the tension Between state and national players over complex legal issues It highlights how concerns are rising in a country that is central to Democrats’ fading hopes for maintaining a majority in the House of Representatives.
“It was in the Commonwealth Court either way,” Elias said, staunchly defending the strategy. “I don’t know where the connection was between them.”
“We’re all dealing with these courts back and forth,” added Kelly Ward Burton, chair of the National Defense Committee, whose subsidiary is involved in the lawsuit. She said the challenge should begin in the lower Commonwealth Court. “I think there is still a possibility to reach [state] The Supreme Court, so I wouldn’t say we’re concerned yet.”
The state legislature and its governor will almost certainly pass the unofficial January 24 deadline set by Pennsylvania election officials, leaving the conservative lower court in charge of choosing the map. But Elias pointed to another date: the end of last month, citing statements by state officials that in order to open the February candidate submission period on time, the map needs to pass the legislature by the end of the year.
Concerned Democrats say the national group’s strategy could cost, at the very least, valuable time and energy before the midterms because they participated in the lower conservative court. At worst, they say, it could threaten many key incumbents and lead to Republicans taking a large majority of state congressional districts.
Most of the state’s congressional delegation — which met Thursday night for a briefing on the latest developments — is unwilling to comment on the record until the map is completed. But in private, Democrats were outraged this week after the state’s Supreme Court refused to interfere with the mapping, dashing hopes that a lower court battle could be avoided.
When asked if she had concerns that the state Supreme Court had not yet taken up jurisdiction, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Penn) said, “The entire redistricting concerns us all.”
But Wilde and others declined to comment on the map or litigation until it became final.
The battle for redistricting has been so all-consuming that several members of the House of Representatives, including Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn) and Madeleine Dean (D-Penn), raised the issue with Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, who now heads party. Demarcation Committee. Hulhan and Dean pressed Holder during an unrelated call hosted by the New Democratic Alliance this week, according to several people familiar with the notes.
To make matters worse, Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough took the case. McCullough may be best known for giving Trump a brief legal victory in November 2020, when she ordered state officials to halt the process of certifying election results. (The state Supreme Court later overturned this.)
However, the National Defense Committee frequently files protective suits to prepare the courts for engagement before potential confrontations in states with divided governments, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Waiting to seek help from the court only after the deadlines have already expired can speed up the process of drawing the lines – and it is possible that they try to appeal directly to the state Supreme Court only to be asked to return to the Commonwealth Court.
Not all Democrats expect the worst, noting that the state Supreme Court is still likely to intervene if the lower court chooses or issues a map that the state Supreme Court rejects as unfair. But it is raising tensions among an already nervous Democratic delegation, as the state is already losing a seat this year and delays in the delivery of census data have put them in a deeper time crisis.
The legal confrontation stems from the divided Pennsylvania government: Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has veto power over any bill It was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature. The map was always likely to be decided in court, but some Democrats had hoped it would go directly to the state’s liberal-leaning Supreme Court. Three years ago, this apparatus scrapped a map drawn by Republicans from the past decade, turning the delegation of 13 Republicans and five Democrats, into an even split.
It’s also a particularly perilous year for the closely divided state, with the governor and the Senate vying for the ballot.
And while Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state has called for a map to be finalized for Congress by Jan. 24, few in the state believe that will be possible.
Instead, the lower court said it will choose its own map by the end of this month, leaving congressional candidates in a painful stalemate. Many predict that key deadlines, such as when a candidacy is announced in March or a statewide primary in May, will have to be pushed back if an early agreement is not reached among Republicans in Wolf’s state legislature.
There is little sign of a compromise. Republicans passed a new map of Capitol Hill on Wednesday that Wolff criticized last month as “the result of deliberate line-drawing choices favoring Republican candidates.”
House Democrats have invested a Litigation-heavy National Redistricting Strategy with the Establishment of the Democratic National Redistricting Committee in 2017. Holder and former President Barack Obama bestowed star power on these efforts and the group filed lawsuits, with Elias’ help, challenging maps drawn by the Republican Party and the commissions as unconstitutional.
Elias, who has spent decades representing leading Democratic candidates, helped expand access to voting before the 2020 election. After the election, he was at the forefront of Democrats’ legal efforts to secure a Biden victory, successfully closing in more than 60 instances Trump’s challenge to the results.
The attorney has also long worked on redistricting in dozens of states. This puts him in a unique stature and could make him the target of anger at lawmakers as they await their fate in a once-in-a-decade process.
“It’s nerve-wracking for them. I totally get it. They don’t have maps. They’re against the deadline. It’s not clear how the maps will be done at this point,” Burton said of the Penn State delegation.