Reclaiming Our Democracy – The Pennsylvania Conference to End Gerrymandering

Fair Districts PA will convene a one-day redistricting conference in Harrisburg for volunteers, supporters, academics, press and legislators. Gubernatorial candidates, legislative leaders and national redistricting experts have been invited to speak about gerrymandering and the potential for reform.  In the afternoon there will be breakout sessions on redistricting issues of interest, including new gerrymandering standards and details on litigation in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states.

Registration fee: $40 regular / $20 for retirees, students, and unemployed

(Lunch and coffee breaks are included in the registration fee)

Update on Redistricting Cases With Potential Pennsylvania Impact

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

https://pixabay.com/en/supreme-court-building-usa-546279/

U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Wisconsin redistricting case, Gill v. Whitford. Early news reports of the argument suggest the expected: the four liberal justices see the injustice of a gerrymander that denies people of the “wrong” party a meaningful right to vote. The four conservative justices may be willing to stay with the existing system, under which courts do not interfere with redistricting on the grounds that it is a “political” matter. Justice Kennedy, who is potentially the key swing vote, appeared to take the arguments by the plaintiffs seriously. Judgment in the case will take a while, likely emerging sometime during the present term, which lasts until the end of June 2018.   –Ken Myers
 

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.

 

How the Industry of Politics is Failing

Join a panel of distinguished business and community leaders for an informed and balanced conversation on:

  • How lack of real competition in politics has gridlocked government and hurt American business
  • The role of gerrymandering
  • What can be done?
  • Redistricting reform in Pennsylvania: A strategic first step

Panelists:

  • Katherine Gehl, Political Innovation Activist, Former President & CEO, Gehl Foods, Inc.
  • Carol Kuniholm, Executive Director, Fair Districts PA
  • David Thornburgh, President, Committee of Seventy
  • Moderator: Craig Ey, Editor in Chief, Philadelphia Business Journal

Seating Is Limited

5:30PM – Networking, Food, Cash Bar

6:15PM – Panel Discussion

7:30PM – Q & A

8PM – Networking

A Hearing on Gerrymandering in Pa. Commonwealth Court

Map of the U.S. congressional districts in Pennsylvania.

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…]

Citizen Lobbying Day

Join us in Harrisburg as we lobby for our bills. If you are a first-time lobbyist, we will train you and pair you with an experienced March on Harrisburg citizen lobbyist as we hop from meeting to meeting, navigating the Capitol and encouraging legislators to cosponsor our bills, and in some cases, sign on to a risky legislative maneuver.

Register for the September 27th citizen lobbying day here.

Citizen Lobbying Day

Join us in Harrisburg as we lobby for our bills. If you are a first-time lobbyist, we will train you and pair you with an experienced March on Harrisburg citizen lobbyist as we hop from meeting to meeting, navigating the Capitol and encouraging legislators to cosponsor our bills, and in some cases, sign on to a risky legislative maneuver.

Register for the September 26th citizen lobbying day here.

Citizen Lobbying Day

Join us in Harrisburg as we lobby for our bills. If you are a first-time lobbyist, we will train you and pair you with an experienced March on Harrisburg citizen lobbyist as we hop from meeting to meeting, navigating the Capitol and encouraging legislators to cosponsor our bills, and in some cases, sign on to a risky legislative maneuver.

Register for the September 25th citizen lobbying day here.

Supreme Court Stays Court-Ordered Texas Redistricting. What Does It Mean?

Original gerrymander cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale, "Boston Gazette," March 26, 1812.

Original gerrymander cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale, “Boston Gazette,” March 26, 1812.

The case challenging redistricting in Texas, Veasey v. Abbott, has been around since 2011. Congressional districts set after the 2010 census were alleged to be discriminatory against minorities and hence illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs won, and new districts were drawn and approved by the federal district court.

But in three elections since then, plaintiffs argue that the new districts have proven still to be discriminatory. The federal district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and ordered the districts redrawn in time for the 2018 election. The case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. [Read more…]

Fighting to Make Our Votes Count

Carol Kuniholm addressing the press at the Pennsylvania Capitol, with supporters of redistricting reform behind her.

Now that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has returned from summer recess, advocacy groups, like Fair Districts PA and March on Harrisburg, are intensifying their fight for redistricting reform. Explaining the importance of their mission, Carol Kuniholm, chair of Fair Districts PA, said at a recent press conference in Harrisburg:

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.

[Read more…]

Fundraiser for Daylin Leach

As you are well aware, the 2018 elections are critical. The Democrats must take back the House. One way to do that is to help elect State Sen. Daylin Leach to Congress in Pennsylvania’s 7th District. Because of gerrymandering, there are only a few flippable districts — and we must help the candidates running for office in those districts. Even if you don’t live in PA 7, your help is needed. So join us in supporting Daylin Leach on September 10 from 4-6 pm.

RSVP and make your contribution online here. To mail your contribution, download the response form, and mail it, along with your check, to Daylin for Congress, P.O, Box 631, Wayne, PA 19087.

Questions? Contact Vanessa.