The state of Pennsylvania has been heavily scrutinized in recent years for its congressional district map, which appears to blatantly favor Republicans. Just last month, a bipartisan movement to change the redistricting process began in the state’s legislature. Now, to make matters worse for Pennsylvania conservatives, the state is facing a lawsuit over the obvious bias demonstrated by its map.
On Thursday, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in the state’s Commonwealth Court calling for the district map to be thrown out and for new maps to be drawn without “burdening or penalizing an identifiable group, a political party, or individual voters based on their political beliefs.”
The introduction to the lawsuit calls partisan gerrymandering “one of the greatest threats to American democracy today.” It also explains that 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 suit goes on to say that the result of partisan gerrymandering is that “general election outcomes are rigged” and are “predetermined by partisan actors sitting behind a computer, not by the candidates, and not by the voters.”
The plaintiffs have described the current congressional map, which was drafted in 2011, as follows:
‘The product of a national movement by the Republican Party to entrench its own representatives in power by utilizing the latest advances in map making technologies and big data to gerrymander districts more effectively than ever before.’
When the suit was announced, Public Interest Law Center director Mimi McKenzie echoes this description, saying that the current map “was drawn to ensure that our general elections will be decided before voters even go to the polls on Election Day.”
Susan Carty, president of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, also defended the lawsuit in a statement, saying that it is “intended to protect the rights of all voters, regardless of party affiliation.”
‘The creation of “safe” seats for either party undermines the ability of all voters to elect representatives of their choosing. We are suing to make sure that elections will be decided by the voters, not by partisan politicians.’
In May, the Brennan Center for Justice said that Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan “consistently have the most extreme levels of partisan bias.”
The center’s analysis of data from the 2012, 2014, and 2016 found that the distortion in maps from these three states “has accounted for seven to ten extra Republican seats in each of the three elections since the 2011 redistricting, amounting to one-third to one-half of the total partisan bias.”
The effects of Pennsylvania’s “extreme” bias are discussed in the lawsuit, which notes that, over the last few years, Republicans have managed to maintain their hold on congressional seats even when they do not perform well in the state overall. For example, in 2012, Republicans won only 49 percent of the statewide vote. However, they still maintained 13 of the state’s congressional seats. They kept those 13 seats in 2014 and 2016, despite receiving just over 50 percent of the state vote in both years.
Clearly, there is an issue with the way Pennsylvania’s districts are drawn. Hopefully, this recent legal action will help encourage the state’s leaders to address the situation.
Featured image via Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images.