Boosting Democrats' chances of retaking control of Congress in this fall's midterm elections, the US Supreme Court and a federal panel on Monday rejected GOP challenges to a newly redrawn congressional map imposed on Pennsylvania by the state's high court. The courts dismissed requests to throw out or halt use of the new map. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled that a 2011 GOP-crafted district map violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to take control of the US House of Representatives, 23 if Conor Lamb wins in Pennsylvania's 18th district. The pair of rulings makes it highly likely that this year's congressional elections in Pennsylvania will be conducted under district lines widely viewed as more favorable to Democrats than the 2011 map.
Both court decisions came with just one day left for the state's congressional candidates to circulate petitions to get on the May 15 primary ballot. The US Supreme Court turned down the request without comment.The panel of judges said it had no authority to act in the matter except to dismiss the case. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called the federal judges' ruling the right decision and said it will let the state move ahead with a fair map. The Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court had ruled in January that a map Republicans crafted in 2011 amounted to an unconstitutional gerrymander. The federal judges' decision comes in a case brought a month ago by eight sitting Republican congressmen and two GOP state senators. They argued the state justices infringed on the Legislature's prerogative and did not give lawmakers enough time to come up with a replacement. (Read more Pennsylvania stories.)