HARRISBURG – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has joined the growing chorus of voices calling for change to the commonwealth’s system of drawing federal legislative districts. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed today with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the ACLU said that the maps for U.S. House districts that were created in 2011 discriminated against voters based on association, in violation of the state constitution’s free speech clause.
“The government has a duty to remain neutral in elections,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The legislature failed on that score in an egregious way, leaving a rigged system that effectively disenfranchises people based on their political beliefs. It has to change.”
The brief was filed in support of the position of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, which brought the lawsuit challenging the commonwealth’s redistricting system. In December, a trial was held before the Commonwealth Court, where Judge P. Kevin Brobson acknowledged in a recommendation issued on December 29 that the process gave the majority Republican legislators an electoral advantage but that it was not illegal under federal or Pennsylvania law.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is now considering the case and is expected to expedite its decision.
In its brief, the ACLU argues that the districts were drawn “for the purpose of locking in partisan advantage regardless of the voters’ likely choices” and that this type of manipulation is unconstitutional.
“These maps were drawn to favor the government’s preferred viewpoint,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “By doing that, voters’ preferences were rendered meaningless. And the end result is a governing body that is non-responsive to the will of the people.”
The ACLU’s brief was submitted by Witold Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Theresa Lee and Sophia Lin Lakin of the ACLU. A copy of the brief is available at this link.