Our lawsuit contends that in 2011 Pennsylvania elected officials manipulated the congressional district boundaries to entrench a majority Republican delegation in Congress and minimize the ability of Democratic voters to elect U.S. House representatives. Filed in the state’s Commonwealth Court, the complaint alleges the current congressional map was designed to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into Pennsylvania’s 1st, 2nd, 13th, 14th and 17th districts. At the same time, the map was designed to spread the remaining Democratic voters among the other 13 districts so that Democratic voters fall short of a majority in each of these 13 districts. The net effect maximizes the number of Pennsylvania congressional seats held by Republicans.
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Every ten years, following the national census, congressional maps are redrawn through the process of redistricting. Indeed, election results in Pennsylvania over the past three congressional elections demonstrate the effectiveness of the current gerrymander. In the 2012 election Republican candidates won 49% of the statewide vote, but secured 13 of 18 congressional seats, whereas Democrats only secured 5 seats, but won over 50% of the statewide vote. And Republicans held this 72% share of congressional seats in both 2014 and 2016 even though they obtained only 55% and 54% share of the statewide vote, respectively.
Under the current map, counties like Montgomery are chopped up across as many as five districts, cities like Chester are split in two, and district shapes are a mockery, with the Washington Post nicknaming Pennsylvania’s 7th District “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”
The lawsuit has been filed against the state and state leaders in their official capacities. While most of the officials were not involved in drafting the 2011 plan, they would be responsible for implementing a new map should the court strike down the current map. In addition to suing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania General Assembly, respondents include Governor Tom Wolf, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Turzai, President Pro Tempore Senator Joseph B. Scarnati III, President of the Pennsylvania Senate Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortés, and Commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions and Elections Jonathan Marks.
With this lawsuit, Pennsylvania voters join voters across the country in challenging partisan redistricting plans that are antithetical to democracy. In a lawsuit brought in Wisconsin a federal court recently held that the state house plan is unconstitutional and the maps must be redrawn. That case, Gill v. Whitford, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar cases are also proceeding in Maryland (where the congressional plan unfairly favors Democrats) and in North Carolina (where the congressional plan unfairly favors Republicans).
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the 2011 map unconstitutional, enjoin its use for future elections, and order new maps be created.
We are partnering on this case with pro bono counsel from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.
Lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court