Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules for Fair Maps Ordering Redrawing of Outrageously Gerrymandered Congressional Districts

    Media Contact
  • David Vance

Today, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ruled the state’s extreme partisan political gerrymander in violation of the state constitution and ordered districts redrawn by February 9, 2018. Common Cause helped to recruit the plaintiffs in the case and filed an amicus brief, which offered alternative constitutional maps, drawn by a panel of experts, that the legislature can utilize to meet the court deadline. Despite a roughly equal split in votes between the parties in each election since the 2011 redistricting, Republicans have consistently won 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today ruled in favor of voters choosing politicians rather than politicians choosing voters and that is major victory for all Pennsylvanians,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “The Court order will result in new maps in time for the 2018 election so that voters will not be forced to face a fourth congressional election under these unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts.”

“We look forward to the legislature drawing maps that will meet the court’s deadlines and pass muster with the governor to ensure that every Pennsylvanian’s voice can be heard in the nation’s capital,” said Micah C.T. Sims, Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “We hope that in drawing this map that legislators will utilize the maps drawn by experts and provided in our brief to the court as a blueprint to restore the vote to the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who were essentially disenfranchised by the outrageous and unconstitutional gerrymander.” 

If the General Assembly does not submit a plan by February 9 or the governor does not approve the General Assembly’s plan by February 15, the court will choose a plan. In anticipation of those possibilities, the parties and intervenors may submit proposed remedial maps by February 15. The court advised that a new congressional districting plan will be available by February 19, 2018 and directed that all measures be taken to ensure that the May 15, 2018 primary election takes place as scheduled.  

In addition to the maps drawn by experts, the Common Cause brief emphasized that Pennsylvania’s Constitution and state Supreme Court precedent provide clear guidance for the drawing of districts. That standard demands compact and contiguous districts with a minimum of political subdivision splits. In addition, the Pennsylvania Constitution protects the right of citizens to “free and equal elections.” The blatantly partisan gerrymander enacted by the legislature in 2011 ignores those standards.   

Attorneys from the law firm of Dechert LLP worked with Common Cause attorneys on the brief.

To read the decision, click here.

To read the Common Cause brief, click here.