An initiative of the Jeffery Golan & Francis Vilella-Vélez Voting Justice Project.
Our lawsuit contended 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 alleged 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 maximized the number of Pennsylvania congressional seats held by Republicans.
On January 22, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared that Pennsylvania’s 2011 U.S. congressional districting map violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and enjoined its use in the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary. The Court invited the General Assembly to submit a new congressional districting plan for approval by the Governor. When they failed to do so, as outlined in its order and opinion, on February 19, 2018, the state’s highest Court adopted a new Congressional map in time for the 2018 elections.
The new map was not drawn to favor either party and promotes all of the traditional district criteria that the court identified. It splits far fewer counties and municipalities, and is far more compact, than the extreme partisan gerrymander that was the 2011 map. A textual description of the new map can be found here, and more information about the map can be found on the case documents page under “Remedial Process and Proposed Maps.”
- Press Release
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Case documents and proposed maps
- Video of Straight Talk on Crooked Lines: Gerrymandering CLE
- Trial Updates (December 11-15, 2017)
Meet Our Clients
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About Redistricting in Pennsylvania
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 old map, counties like Montgomery were chopped up across as many as five districts, cities like Chester were split in two, and district shapes were a mockery, with the Washington Post nicknaming Pennsylvania’s 7th District “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”
With this lawsuit, Pennsylvania voters joined voters across the country in challenging partisan redistricting plans that are antithetical to democracy. In Gill v. Whitford, Wisconsin voters challenged their state’s congressional district map as a unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. A federal district court held that the map must be redrawn, but in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, declining to establish a federal standard for partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court ruled similarly in its decision in Benisek v. Lamone, a Maryland case, affirming a lower court decision that denied a claim of partisan gerrymandering. In a case out of North Carolina, a panel of federal judges ruled that the state’s map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in August 2018.
In their third request for intervention from SCOTUS, legislative leaders petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the Court to review the case
Pa. Supreme Court Adopts New Congressional Map
Applications for Stay, Answers Filed
Pa. Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument
Supreme Court Briefs Filed
PA Redistricting Lawsuit Trial Updates
Legislative Leader Wastes Voters' Time in About Face
Lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court