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A Pennsylvania judge may soon rule on the state’s congressional districts map

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough said she could have a decision in a few days.

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center, home to the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, Pa., on Nov. 6, 2020.

 Julio Cortez / AP Photo

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center, home to the Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, Pa., on Nov. 6, 2020.

(Harrisburg) — A Pennsylvania judge who recently conducted a hearing on more than a dozen competing proposals for a redrawn map of the state’s congressional districts told the state Supreme Court on Tuesday her decision will be ready in a few days — if they do not yank the case away from her.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough’s one-paragraph statement was among a flurry of filings in the closely watched case on Tuesday. Democrats urged the Democratic-majority high court to take over, while Republicans said the judge, also a Republican, should be allowed to make a decision that can then be appealed.

The Supreme Court put McCullough’s case on hold on Monday while it considers whether to exercise its authority over the process.

McCullough said her decision and opinion will be ready by Friday at the latest and will include changes to the timeline for candidates to circulate nominating petitions — a three-week process that would otherwise begin Feb. 15.

McCullough is sorting through the competing proposals for a new map because Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a set of congressional districts produced by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

New congressional districts must take into account the loss of a single seat because of Pennsylvania’s comparatively slow population growth. The state’s congressional delegation is dropping from 18 to 17 members.

In their filing, Republican legislative leaders warned that “reversing course deep into the 11th hour of these proceedings, and assuming extraordinary jurisdiction of this case at this phase, will not speed up the case” and that McCullough has created a factual record and reviewed “copious scientific and lay evidence.”

Wolf argued that the Supreme Court stepping in now is the fastest route to get a final map and said the justices were better positioned to make changes to the election calendar’s deadlines.

The governor’s filing also noted the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s work on redrawing the General Assembly’s district lines has not wrapped up, although the five-member panel could cast a final vote at a meeting scheduled for Friday in Harrisburg. Appeals of their decision could take more than a month.

The primary is currently set for May 17 but could be delayed if the legislative maps aren’t finalized in time.

The Department of State has said elections officials need two or three weeks to prepare for the start of the nominating petitions circulation period, so that candidates have sufficient notice about their districts’ new boundaries. If the primary has to be delayed, the agency has said, the new date should apply to both the legislative and congressional races.

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