Pa. Court rules state House special elections will be held on Feb. 7

Voters in western Pennsylvania will head to the polls next month to select legislators for three vacant districts

By: - January 13, 2023 3:39 pm
Whole-Home Repairs Act Rally held on the Capitol steps on May 24, 2022 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

Whole-Home Repairs Act Rally held on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

(*This story was updated at 4:52 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, to include a statement from Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Berks.)

By Harrison Cann and Justin Sweitzer

Amid the uncertainty in the state House, Pennsylvanians got a bit of clarity Friday when a court ordered two special elections for vacant state House seats to be held on Feb. 7.

As a result of the Commonwealth Court’s Friday ruling, three special elections to fill vacancies in the state House will be held on Feb. 7, as the court sided with House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton over House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, whose challenge was rejected.

In a three-page order, the court said Cutler failed to prove that he will suffer “immediate and irreparable harm” without an injunction from the court.

“Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court today decided to ignore basic math and prior law in ordering all three of these elections be held together on Feb. 7,” Cutler said in a statement. “Instead of resolving a dispute where the answer was self-evident based on the numbers, the court took the path of least resistance and thereby weakened the foundations of our republic and faith in the rule of law.”

Nicole Reigelman, a spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement that the decision “is good news for the nearly 200,000 Allegheny County residents currently without representation in the state House.”

“Now county elections officials can proceed to print ballots and make final preparations for special elections in the 32nd, 34th, and 35th legislative districts on February 7,” Reigelman said.

In a statement, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, said the appellate court’s ruling was “a victory for democracy. As my first official act as Speaker of the House of Representatives, I immediately reaffirmed the Writs of Election scheduling the special elections for Feb. 7 to ensure all voters in the commonwealth had representation without unnecessary delay or confusion.

“There is no reason to delay these special elections other than partisan politics, and that should never take precedence over the enfranchisement of over the 120,000 Pennsylvanians who reside the 34th and 35th legislative districts,” Rozzi said.

The three vacancies lie in Democratic-leaning state House districts, meaning the party’s anticipated 102-member majority in the House will likely come next month barring any major upsets. The seats were vacated by the late state Rep. Tony DeLuca, who died before a replacement could be put on the ballot, and state Reps. Austin Davis and Summer Lee, who left for higher office.

Read the decision:

Harrison Cann and Justin Sweitzer are reporters for City & State Pa., where this story first appeared. Capital-Star Editor John L. Micek contributed additional reporting. 

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