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Pennsylvania Republicans file second challenge to new congressional map

(Reuters) – Pennsylvania Republicans, including congressmen, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging a new congressional map created by the state’s top court in the party’s latest effort to block the map from taking effect ahead of November’s mid-term elections and potentially boosting Democratic prospects.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, accused the state’s Supreme Court of violating the U.S. Constitution, first by declaring the old map invalid and then by drawing its own lines after Republicans and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf could not reach consensus on a new map.

“Our concerns stem from the attack on the constitution initiated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, not the design of a map,” Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, a Republican, said in a statement. “We are unwilling to acquiesce to the court’s attempt to hijack the functions of the legislative and executive branches.”

The complaint opened a second legal front in the battle over redistricting in Pennsylvania, one day after Republican legislative leaders filed a separate emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court rejected a similar emergency petition earlier this month.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January threw out the existing congressional lines, which created bizarrely shaped districts that earned derisive descriptors from critics like “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”

The court’s Democratic majority found the Republican-controlled legislature had deliberately drawn them in 2011 to marginalize Democratic voters in violation of the state constitution.

The new map, which the court released on Monday, is expected to increase Democrats’ chances of flipping as many as half-a-dozen seats in Pennsylvania, where Republicans have held 13 of 18 congressional seats.

Democrats need to win 24 seats nationwide in November to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republicans.

Eight Republican congressmen from the state and two state lawmakers are plaintiffs in Thursday’s lawsuit.

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which filed the original lawsuit that led to the state Supreme Court’s decision, have criticized the latest legal maneuvers as a waste of taxpayer money.

The case is one of several nationwide challenging partisan gerrymandering, in which lines are manipulated to weaken the power of one party’s voters. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide similar cases from Wisconsin and Maryland by this summer.

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