As Speaker of the house, State Representative Sam Smith is required to schedule special house elections. But because the State Supreme Court has rejected the redistricting map draw up by legislative leaders, Smith says he is unable to fulfill his obligations.
It was last week that a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the plan to redraw state house and senate district lines. By a vote of 4 to 3, the Justices sent the current state plan back to the legislative reapportionment commission. While rejecting the plan, the majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has still not spelled out what changes need to be made to the State's new district map before it can be approved.
While waiting on guidelines, the Court has instructed legislative candidates to proceed with circulating nominating petitions in areas based on district lines that were drawn back in 2001. But the Speaker of the House argues that would force him to use district lines for special elections that no longer meet constitutional requirements.
Representative Sam Smith says using the out of date district lines would violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S Constitution and violate the terms of the State Constitution as well.
Population shifts that have occurred over the past decade make the old district lines invalid according to the federal lawsuit filed by Smith. Legislative Leaders are hoping to get some guidance from the State Supreme Court this week on their redistricting demands.
Potential legislative candidates across the state are caught in a bind because the three week period for gathering signatures on nominating petitions is already underway and firm district boundaries are still not in place.