Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Justice Patricia McCullough, designated as a special master for the Supreme Court, today selected a congressional redistricting map approved by the Republican-held legislature to move forward.
The map, referred to as HB 2146, was vetoed when it arrived on the desk of Governor Tom Wolf on January 26.
McCullough wrote that “HB 2146 was subject to vigorous scrutiny and was passed by a majority of assemblypersons in both chambers of the General Assembly. In Pennsylvania, the General Assembly has 253 members, consisting of a Senate with 50 members and a House of Representatives with 203 members, and it is beyond cavil that the breadth and diversity of the assemblypersons’ uniquely defined constituency reflect and represent, on the whole, the will of the people.”
She also noted that “neither Governor Wolf nor any other party herein has advanced any cognizable legal objection to the constitutionality of the congressional districts therein.”
Wolf wrote that “HB 2146 does not deliver on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections. HB 2146 adopts a map selected by politicians to take advantage of the process and choose their own voters. The public deserves a fair map completed in a bipartisan manner; the General Assembly failed to adopt one.”
Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) said in a statement that “the selection of this map is also a recognition that the General Assembly is the only lawmaking body to take official legislative action on congressional redistricting, which is one of the most basic, constitutionally mandated functions of state government.”
McCullough is known for being one of the only lower court judges in Pennsylvania to rule in favor of former President Donald Trump’s campaign when it sued to have election certification delayed. She also ran unsuccessfully for the PA Supreme Court last year as a self-described conservative.
The Supreme Court, with a 5-2 Democratic majority, will hold oral arguments on the chosen map on February 18. It has the final determination on using the map McCullough moved forward or another option.