Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Cases Percolating in the Courts

Back in 2004, when I held my first public forum on gerrymandering and 23 people showed up, I could never have predicted that the drawing of legislative district lines would become such a trendy topic. My last forum on this topic drew over 350 people. It seems like every day there is a new article in some national publication on how obscenely drawn our lines are (especially Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, in which I am keenly interested). In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Gill v. Whitford this year, a case directly challenging the concept of gerrymandering that could, if decided right, be one of the most consequential cases in the court’s history.

Here in Pennsylvania, things are really popping. While we await the outcome of Gill, there are two important cases percolating in which the district lines in our state are under judicial review. [Read more…]

Partisan Gerrymandering Trial: League of Women Voters v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

With the 2018 midterm elections nearing and a gerrymandering case under review in the U.S. Supreme Court, partisan gerrymandering is a hot topic right now. It is also an important issue for Pennsylvanians, whose voting districts are considered some of the most gerrymandered in the country. This issue is on trial in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg in the case of League of Women Voters v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The trial is open to the public. It begins on December 11, and is expected to be completed on December 15. It could potentially take longer, and because of the time urgency, there may be days when it runs beyond normal court hours.

Gerrymandering, The Real Voter Fraud

Fair Districts PA speaker Michael Druding will explain Pennsylvania’s current redistricting process, demonstrate how it undermines democracy and then offer a solution to the problem.

Fair Districts PA is a non-partisan coalition of citizens and organizations seeking to reform Pennsylvania’s redistricting rules by taking the process out of the hands of party leaders and putting it into the hands of an impartial, transparent and accountable citizens’ commission.

Fair Districts PA Statewide Conference Call

This is not an introductory call, but it is open to volunteers, supporters or anyone curious about what’s next for Fair Districts PA. Update information from these calls will also be shared in other appropriate ways, either through our Statewide Coordinating Team or through email updates.

Call in: (641) 715-3580 / Access code: 594190

For introductory information, check out our Let’s End Gerrymandering video or Voices of Fair Districts PA.

Partisan Gerrymandering Trial: Agre v. Wolf

With the 2018 midterm elections nearing and a gerrymandering case under review in the U.S. Supreme Court, partisan gerrymandering is a hot topic right now. It is also an important issue for Pennsylvanians, whose voting districts are considered some of the most gerrymandered in the country. This issue is on trial in Philadelphia in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the case of Agre v. Wolf.

The trial is open to the public and will begin on Monday, December 4. It will start after pretrial motions wrap up, at about 10:30 a.m. Plaintiffs will present their case from Monday morning through mid-day on Wednesday. Defendants will present their case from Wednesday afternoon through mid-day on Friday.

Partisan Gerrymandering Is on Trial in Pennsylvania

State and federal courts in Pennsylvania are taking up the issue of partisan gerrymandering — and their decisions could potentially have a significant impact on the 2018 midterm elections. Partisan gerrymandering is the intentional drawing of voting district maps to benefit a particular political party — and Pennsylvania is infamous for its gerrymandered districts. As Stephen Wolf of the Daily Kos explains, “[T]he GOP’s brazenly tortured lines have produced a stable 13-to-5 Republican congressional majority in what is otherwise an evenly divided swing state.” [Read more…]

Gerrymandering Book Author Spoke Against Republican Strategy

Editor’s Note: The Philadelphia Inquirer and Montgomery County have information about today’s election.

Gerrymandering expert and book author David Daley spoke in Plymouth Meeting ahead of the Nov. 7th local elections. Daley is the author of Rat F**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. In “Rat F**ked” (a colorful slang term for political sabotage), Daley documents the GOP’s insidious strategy to redraw the electoral maps in the United States to guarantee a Republican majority in the House of Representatives through 2020. [Read more…]

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