Pennsylvania Redistricting Lawsuit

An initiative of the Jeffrey Golan & Frances Vilella-Vélez Voting Justice Project.

Our lawsuit contended that in 2011 Pennsylvania elected officials manipulated the congressional district boundaries to entrench a majority Republican delegation in Congress and minimize the ability of Democratic voters to elect U.S. House representatives. Filed in the state’s Commonwealth Court, the complaint alleged the current congressional map was designed to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into Pennsylvania’s 1st, 2nd, 13th, 14th and 17th districts. At the same time, the map was designed to spread the remaining Democratic voters among the other 13 districts so that Democratic voters fall short of a majority in each of these 13 districts. The net effect maximized the number of Pennsylvania congressional seats held by Republicans.

On January 22, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared that Pennsylvania’s 2011 U.S. congressional districting map violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and enjoined its use in the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary. The Court invited the General Assembly to submit a new congressional districting plan for approval by the Governor. When they failed to do so, as outlined in its order and opinion, on February 19, 2018, the state’s highest Court adopted a new Congressional map in time for the 2018 elections.

The new map was not drawn to favor either party and promotes all of the traditional district criteria that the court identified. It splits far fewer counties and municipalities, and is far more compact, than the extreme partisan gerrymander that was the 2011 map. A textual description of the new map can be found here, and more information about the map can be found on the case documents page under “Remedial Process and Proposed Maps.”

Case Resources

Meet Our Clients

Click on a district to learn more about our client from that district

About Redistricting in Pennsylvania

Every ten years, following the national census, congressional maps are redrawn through the process of redistricting. Indeed, election results in Pennsylvania over the past three congressional elections demonstrate the effectiveness of the current gerrymander. In the 2012 election Republican candidates won 49% of the statewide vote, but secured 13 of 18 congressional seats, whereas Democrats only secured 5 seats, but won over 50% of the statewide vote. And Republicans held this 72% share of congressional seats in both 2014 and 2016 even though they obtained only 55% and 54% share of the statewide vote, respectively.

Under the old map, counties like Montgomery were chopped up across as many as five districts, cities like Chester were split in two, and district shapes were a mockery, with the Washington Post nicknaming Pennsylvania’s 7th District “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”

With this lawsuit, Pennsylvania voters joined voters across the country in challenging partisan redistricting plans that are antithetical to democracy. In Gill v. Whitford, Wisconsin voters challenged their state’s congressional district map as a unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. A federal district court held that the map must be redrawn, but in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, declining to establish a federal standard for partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court ruled similarly in its decision in Benisek v. Lamone, a Maryland case, affirming a lower court decision that denied a claim of partisan gerrymandering. In a case out of North Carolina, a panel of federal judges ruled that the state’s map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in August 2018.

Case Updates

June 2019
We issued a statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that there is no federal judicial standard for partisan gerrymandering

October 2018
U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Pennsylvania Redistricting Case, Denying Legislative Leaders' Third Request

September 2018
Plaintiffs Oppose Legislative Leaders’ Third Request to SCOTUS to Reinstate Pennsylvania’s Gerrymandered Map

June 2018
In their third request for intervention from SCOTUS, legislative leaders petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the Court to review the case

April 2018
U.S. District Court rules that Senator Scarnati must pay attorneys' fees for improperly attempting to move our legal challenge to federal court in fall 2017.

March 2018
U.S. Supreme Court will not Stay Pennsylvania’s 2018 Congressional Map; Related Federal Case Also Dismissed

March 2018
Pennsylvania Voters Head to Federal Court to Defend the 2018 Map

March 2018
Voters ask Federal Court to dismiss legislative leaders' challenge to new map

February 2018
Our Clients Move to Intervene in Federal Challenge to New Congressional Map

February 2018
Legislative Leaders Should Stop Wasting Time and Learn to Live with New Map

February 2018
Pa. Supreme Court Adopts New Congressional Map

February 2018
Petitioners Propose Constitutional Maps to Pa. Supreme Court

February 2018
Our statement regarding Senator Scarnati's and Representative Turzai's proposed congressional map

February 2018
Our statement regarding PA General Assembly's failure to adopt a new congressional map by Pennsylvania Supreme Court's February 9 deadline

February 2018
PA Supreme Court Opinion Sets Groundbreaking Legal Standard against Partisan Gerrymanders

February 2018
U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Legislators' Applications for Stay

February 2018
Petitioners File Opposition to Legislators’ Request for Stay from U.S. Supreme Court

January 2018
Pa. Supreme Court Denies Legislators' Application to Stay

January 2018
Applications for Stay, Answers Filed

January 2018
Pa. Supreme Court Holds Congressional Map Violates Pa. Constitution

January 2018
Pa. Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument

January 2018
Supreme Court Briefs Filed

December 2017
Judge Finds 2011 U.S. Congressional Map Advantages Republicans

December 2017
PA Redistricting Lawsuit Trial Updates

November 2017
Legislative Leader Wastes Voters' Time in About Face

November 2017
Legislative Leaders Attempt to Further Delay Lawsuit, ask to Remove Lawsuit from State Court to Federal Court

November 2017
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Grants Application for Extraordinary Relief

October 2017
Application for Extraordinary Relief Filed Asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Assume Extraordinary Jurisdiction of the Case

September 2017
Court to hold hearing Oct. 4 on Pennsylvania’s Redistricting Lawsuit

August 2017
Pa. General Assembly and its Leaders Seek Delay in Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit

June 2017
Lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court

The Jeffrey Golan & Frances Vilella-Vélez Voting Rights Project