In a lengthy statement Thursday in reaction to the PA Supreme Court's decision ordering special elections to fill vacant House seats, House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) said--
"The opinion by the majority of the court seems intent on creating a constitutional collision between two of the three constitutionally created co-equal branches of government. Make no mistake, they are tipping the scales of power in their own favor.
"In establishing their position, the majority of the court has added new language to the constitution without the authority to do so. They have ignored U. S. Supreme Court rulings, as they ignored their own precedent in the recent reapportionment ruling. They also issued an order that tramples state and federal law. Notably, they did all of this without briefs being issued and without listening to any oral arguments. It appears that their minds were made up before the complaint was verified.
"While the court rightly expresses concern for those citizens of the six districts that are currently vacant, it showed no concern for the thousands of voters deprived of equal representation, many of whom have special minority status under the Voting Rights Act, in its order on the reapportionment plan recently discarded by this same majority. That decision requires elections to be held in districts that, based on the 2010 census numbers, are wildly and undeniably unconstitutional.
"How the citizens' rights to equal representation in these six districts outweighs the rights of Hispanic and Latino citizens and those citizens who currently live in legislative districts that are 20,000 to 30,000 people over the lowest populated districts is unexplained by this same majority of the court. The solution that was legally consistent, and made common sense, was clearly articulated in the dissenting opinion of Justice Saylor which, if endorsed by the majority of the court, would have avoided this crisis.
"Perhaps someday, the agenda of this activist majority will be unveiled. In the meantime, this order compromises the election process because candidates for these special elections will need to be selected and certified, counties will need to set up for the special elections in an abbreviated time frame and those who vote by absentee ballot, especially military personnel serving overseas, will have their opportunity to vote placed in jeopardy.
"This order is not a setback for Republicans, nor an advantage for Democrats for that matter, since it will not affect the overall makeup of the House. It is, however, a setback for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians because these elections should be called in districts that comply with the Constitution.
"Understanding that there are competing mandates in the Constitution, it is impossible to establish a perfect map. The more equal one makes the population of each district, the more one must split municipal and county lines, yet this court chose to invalidate a 'better' map while pretending it can achieve the perfect map. That decision is what triggered the legal quandary we are now facing.
"That being said, and in the face of an over-reaching court, my refusal to call these six special elections will only insure a constitutional crisis not of my making. Therefore, in an attempt to avoid that crisis, I will issue the writs of election. However, let me be clear, the court's majority has re-written the Constitution, ignored the clear intention of the law to exercise its own will and advanced its own veiled agenda at the expense of thousands of citizens of the Commonwealth."