On December 29, Commonwealth Court Judge P. Kevin Brobson issued his Recommended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in Pennsylvania’s redistricting lawsuit, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, et al., v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al.
In his opinion, Judge Brobson concluded that the petitioners, 18 voters representing each of Pennsylvania’s U.S. House districts, and their legal team, established that the 2011 map intentionally discriminates, “so as to grant Republican candidates an advantage in certain districts within the Commonwealth.” In other words, Judge Brobson found, “the 2011 Plan was drawn to give Republican candidates an advantage.” He also found that all four of the petitioners’ expert witnesses are credible, while rejecting the analyses and opinions of the legislative respondents’ only two witnesses. In sum, Judge Brobson concluded, “A lot can and has been said about the 2011 Plan, much of which is unflattering and yet justified.”
While he determined that petitioners did not present a manageable standard for deciding if the map had been excessively gerrymandered, he found that “partisan considerations are evident in the enacted 2011 plan such that the 2011 plan overall favors the Republican party in certain congressional districts.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered expedited briefing and will hear oral argument in the case on January 17.
“The 2011 map is unconstitutional, utterly unresponsive to the will of the voters, and deliberately wastes Democratic votes through a brutally effective cracking and packing scheme,” said Benjamin Geffen, staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Center, one of two law firms representing the 18 individual petitioners in this case. “We will demonstrate to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the partisan bias in the 2011 districting plan is the largest and worst in state history and that the map should be struck down and redrawn immediately.”
“Partisan gerrymandering is discriminatory and unfair, and Pennsylvania’s 2011 map is among the worst of the worst,” said R. Stanton Jones of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, LLP, also representing the petitioners. “The Pennsylvania Constitution does not permit discrimination against voters on the basis of their political views, which is exactly what this map does. We look forward to a final resolution of this case by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”
The petitioners are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to enjoin the current map and establish an expedited, two-week schedule for the General Assembly to draw a new map. If the General Assembly cannot accomplish this task, the petitioners have asked for the court to appoint a special master to independently redraw the map.
Pennsylvania Commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, Jonathan Marks, filed an affidavit during the recently-conducted trial in Commonwealth Court recommending that if the Supreme Court orders a new map be drawn, it be done by January 23, and no later than February 20, in order for the Department of State to effectively conduct the May 15, 2018 primary.
Filed in June in the state’s Commonwealth Court, this state lawsuit alleges the current U.S. Congressional map violates the Pennsylvania Constitution because it was designed to override voter preferences and create a lopsided, 13-5 majority in favor of Republican congressional representatives. In November 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction over the lawsuit by lifting a stay and granting the petitioners’ Application for Extraordinary Relief.
Read Judge Brobson’s full opinion here.
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