PA Gerrymandering Lawsuit: What You Need to Know

On June 15 the Public Interest Law Center filed suit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania lawsuit and plaintiffs from every PA congressional district.

Fair Districts PA is not a plaintiff, but certainly in support of the suit. As the introduction to the petition states:

This case is about one of the greatest threats to American democracy today: partisan gerrymandering. A partisan gerrymander occurs when the political party in control of redistricting redraws congressional or state legislative districts to entrench that party in power and prevent voters affiliated with the minority party from electing candidates of their choice. The result is that general election outcomes are rigged—they are predetermined by partisan actors sitting behind a computer, not by the candidates, and not by the voters.

Press coverage

The filing has received significant press. Here’s just a sample:

Gerrymandering hurts all of us

While some initial perception or coverage may have a partisan slant, all involved in this suit believe that ALL voters deserve equal protection, ALL voters are harmed by gerrymandering and ALL of Pennsylvania suffers when unaccountable leaders hijack the democratic process for their own personal or partisan purposes.

Additional clarification:

1. Lawsuits are pending in both Republican- and Democrat-controlled states

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause, both instrumental in finding plaintiffs and putting this lawsuit in motion, have been part of lawsuits in states with both Democrat and Republican gerrymandering.

There are similar lawsuits pending in:

All organizations involved in this, including the Public Interest Law Center, are emphatically determined to protect representative democracy and to work for a non-partisan solution to partisan gerrymandering. (Check the Public Interest Law Center’s FAQ addressing this).

2. The plaintiffs are Democrats because the suit is structured to make a specific case

While we believe all voters, from all parties, are harmed when legislative leaders draw maps to further their own agenda, the LWVPA lawsuit is structured to make a particular constitutional case based on provisions of the Pennsylvania constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression, freedom of association and equal protection.

There were Republican, third-party and unaffiliated voters who offered to be plaintiffs, but it was important that all plaintiffs be from one group that was penalized for their party affiliation and voting patterns and denied equal protection: in this case, Democratic voters.

Defendants include:

You can read the full petition here. Now that the suit is filed, there is no plan to add further plaintiffs.

3. This lawsuit helps shine a light on the issue

The lawsuit will call attention to the partisan intent behind the congressional districts and the harm to individual voters.

We are hopeful the courts will invalidate what the General Assembly did in the last round of redistricting and provide clear guidelines for what constitutes fair redistricting as opposed to partisan gerrymandering.

4. Lawsuits won’t fix the problem, but they’re a start

We don’t believe lawsuits are the final answer, but they can provide leverage toward reform and at least some relief from the current distorted districts.

If the lawsuit succeeds, there will be a fairer congressional map for Pennsylvania that will restore a meaningful voice to ordinary voters—Republicans, Democrats, and others—by bringing back competitive elections for the U.S. House.

5. We still support an independent citizens commission

This lawsuit should in no way be taken to suggest lessening commitment to the goal of an independent citizens redistricting commission. All organizations involved believe this is one step toward accomplishment of that ultimate goal.

Real, long-term resolution of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania will require an informed, engaged, committed public ready to act on behalf of representative democracy. Help us use this opportunity to educate others and to further the work toward an independent, non-partisan citizens redistricting commission.

Take action: write a letter to the editor

We encouraging all our supporters to consider writing letters to the editor on this. Download the Public Interest Law Center’s letter template, including ideas to personalize your letters, or see our advice for writing letters.

Write a letter now