“The students and young people in this country, and here in Philadelphia, are inspiring the next generation of leaders, and their voices are lifting up the voices of so many on common sense laws in this country to prevent gun violence, and to keep our streets and our schools safe,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.) to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice at March For Our Lives Philadelphia. “I wanted to be here today really to support the young people, support their voices, and frankly, to be inspired by them.”
The March 24 event in Philly was a Sister March with Washington DC’s March for Our Lives, called for by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors of the February 14 mass shooting that left 17 people dead. As reported by The Times of Israel, among the victims, five Jews were killed: Jewish students Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Meadow Pollock, 18, and Alex Schachter, 14, as well as geography teacher Scott Beigel, 35.
Editor’s note: This article was written prior to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in League of Women Voters v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was just handed down. In its opinion, the court held that Pennsylvania’s congressional district maps violate the state constitution. The ruling also requires that the maps be redrawn in time for the May 2018 primaries.
People who are concerned that elections in the U.S. are “rigged” should be thrilled with the wave of new court cases on partisan gerrymandering, which voice this contention, and even better, propose remedies for the problem. [Read more…]
On the first night of Hanukkah, the state of Alabama witnessed a miracle of its own: the voters of this very red state elected a Democrat to the United States Senate for the first time in 27 years. In a highly publicized special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore. Moore, who was endorsed by President Trump, has been accused by multiple women of predatory sexual misconduct, dating back years ago when the women were teenagers and Moore was a much older man.
In Jones’ victory speech, the new senator-elect thanked family, friends and campaign staff, as well as voters of different demographics, even wishing a happy Hanukkah to his Jewish supporters.
— by Jeff Dempsey, CeaseFirePA
A bill that would gut state gun laws, and force states to accept the more lax concealed weapon carry standards of other states, passed the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee this week. For example, we have a licensing system in Pennsylvania which relies on a strong background check, but this bill would force us to honor concealed carry permits from states with weaker systems, and even states like Mississippi, which doesn’t require a license or permit to carry at all. The mandatory Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill (H.R. 38), is a proposal that would make it legal for more dangerous and untrained people to carry hidden guns in more public places. Despite the fact that we’ve had the worst mass shooting in modern American history this year, Congress is still doing the NRA’s bidding and pushing for action that will weaken our gun laws. [Read more…]
The issue of partisan gerrymandering was on the docket during the first week in October, both in the U.S. Supreme Court and in courts in Pennsylvania. Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of intentionally drawing voting district lines in a way that benefits a particular political party. Here is a court-by-court update on the status of these gerrymandering cases.
In the U.S. Supreme Court
In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The day before the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Wisconsin case, another partisan gerrymandering case was filed in federal District Court in Philadelphia by five Pennsylvania citizens. Taking a different approach from the Wisconsin case, the Pennsylvania plaintiffs in Agre v. Wolf argue that the the partisan nature of Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional district map violates the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They claim that even the attempt or intent to gerrymander is unconstitutional under this clause and that the court should require Pennsylvania to come up with a process of redistricting that has effective guarantees against partisan overreach.
As Raymond Solomon, one of the plaintiffs in the case, explained:
We’re not just looking for a new map, but a new process. California, Arizona, New Jersey and other states have shown that there can be neutral and fair processes that do not rig the outcomes in advance. We feel the U.S. House is the People’s House, and deciding who goes to the People’s House belongs to the people and not the politicians.
In the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
At the state level, a hearing was held before Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in a partisan gerrymandering case brought by petitioners the League of Women Voters and individual voters from across the commonwealth. At issue in the hearing was whether this case should be delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court delivers its ruling in the Wisconsin case, as claimed by lawyers for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and its leaders.
The petitioners argue that a delay is not warranted because their case is based on the state constitution, not the federal one, and therefore, would not be governed by the Supreme Court’s ruling. They also emphasize that time is critical to prevent yet another election where the voices of Democratic voters are effectively silenced because their voting districts were drawn to secure Republican victories.
Judge Pellegrini said that even if he allows this case to proceed without waiting for the Supreme court’s ruling in the Wisconsin case, the judicial process will not be completed before the 2018 midterm elections. He did mention the option of a King’s Bench petition, which can potentially fast-track a case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
When can we expect Judge Pellegrini to rule on whether he will delay the case or permit it to proceed in Commonwealth Court? David Gersch, one of the attorneys for the petitioners, believes the judge will issue his order within a few weeks.
This week, Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process. On Wednesday, October 4, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court will hold a hearing challenging the constitutionality of the state’s congressional district maps. Petitioners in this case, which include the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters and individual citizens from across the state, claim that their votes have been rendered meaningless by maps intentionally drawn by state legislators to favor Republican outcomes. Proponents of redistricting reform are calling on Pennsylvania voters to show their support by packing the courtroom for the 10:00 a.m. hearing and the ensuing press conference. [Read more…]
For the first time in generations, many of our fellow citizens are questioning the underlying premises of democracy itself. … We feel our votes no longer count and our voices are no longer heard. When we look for causes, we see our gerrymandered districts and our lack of choice at the polls.