League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Commonwealth, No. 159 MM 2017

CourtPennsylvania Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE TODD
Citation178 A.3d 737
Parties LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS of Pennsylvania, Carmen Febo San Miguel, James Solomon, John Greiner, John Capowski, Gretchen Brandt, Thomas Rentschler, Mary Elizabeth Lawn, Lisa Isaacs, Don Lancaster, Jordi Comas, Robert Smith, William Marx, Richard Mantell, Priscilla McNulty, Thomas Ulrich, Robert McKinstry, Mark Lichty, Lorraine Petrosky, Petitioners v. The COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania; The Pennsylvania General Assembly; Thomas W. Wolf, in his capacity as Governor of Pennsylvania; Michael J. Stack III, in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and President of the Pennsylvania Senate; Michael C. Turzai, in his capacity as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Joseph B. Scarnati III, in his capacity as Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore; Robert Torres, in his capacity as Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Jonathan M. Marks, in his capacity as Commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation of the Pennsylvania Department of State, Respondents
Decision Date07 February 2018
Docket NumberNo. 159 MM 2017

178 A.3d 737

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS of Pennsylvania, Carmen Febo San Miguel, James Solomon, John Greiner, John Capowski, Gretchen Brandt, Thomas Rentschler, Mary Elizabeth Lawn, Lisa Isaacs, Don Lancaster, Jordi Comas, Robert Smith, William Marx, Richard Mantell, Priscilla McNulty, Thomas Ulrich, Robert McKinstry, Mark Lichty, Lorraine Petrosky, Petitioners
v.
The COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania; The Pennsylvania General Assembly; Thomas W. Wolf, in his capacity as Governor of Pennsylvania; Michael J. Stack III, in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and President of the Pennsylvania Senate; Michael C. Turzai, in his capacity as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Joseph B. Scarnati III, in his capacity as Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore; Robert Torres, in his capacity as Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Jonathan M. Marks, in his capacity as Commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation of the Pennsylvania Department of State, Respondents

No. 159 MM 2017

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Argued: January 17, 2018
Filed: February 7, 2018


Andrew David Bergman, Esq., Michael Churchill, Esq., Benjamin David Geffen, Esq., Public Interest Law Center, John Arak Freedman, Esq., David Paul Gersch, Esq., Daniel Frederick Jacobson, Esq., R. Stanton Jones, Esq., Mary M. McKenzie, Esq., John Robinson, Esq., Elisabeth S. Theodore, Esq., for Petitioners.

Mark Alan Aronchick, Esq., Claudia De Palma, Esq., Michele D. Hangley, Esq., Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, Thomas Paul Howell, Esq., Governors Office of General Counsel, Timothy Eugene Gates, Esq., Ian Blythe Everhart, Esq., Kathleen Marie Kotula, Esq., Pennsylvania Department of State Pennsylvania Office of General Counsel, for Governor Wolf, Robert Torres, Jonathan Marks, Respondents.

Clifford B. Levine, Esq., Alex Michael Lacey, Esq., Alice Birmingham Mitinger, Esq., Cohen & Grigsby, P.C., Lazar Melton Palnick, Esq., for Lt. Governor Stack, III, Respondent.

Jonathan F. Bloom, Esq., Karl Stewart Myers, Esq., Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, L.L.P., for Pennsylvania General Assembly, Respondent.

Kathleen A. Gallagher, Esq., Carolyn Batz McGee, Esq., Russell David Giancola, Esq., Jason Raymond McLean, Esq., Cipriani & Werner, P.C., John E. Hall, Esq., Patrick T. Lewis, Esq., Robert J. Tucker, Esq., Effrem Mark Braden, Esq., for Speaker of the House Michael C. Turzai, Respondent.

Jason Torchinsky, Esq., Shawn Sheehy, Esq., John Patrick Wixted, Esq., Brian S. Paszamant, Esq., Jason Adam Snyderman, Esq., Blank Rome LLP, for President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati, III, Respondent.

Lawrence J. Tabas, Esq., Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP, Timothy James Ford, Esq., Rebecca Lee Warren, Esq., for Brian McCann, et al, Intervenors.

Irwin William Aronson, Esq., John R. Bielski, Esq., Lauren Miller Hoye, Esq., Amy Louise Rosenberger, Esq., Ralph J. Teti, Esq., Alaine S. Williams, Esq., Willig, Williams & Davidson, for AFSCME Council 13, et al., Amicus Curiae.

Robert A. Atkins, Esq., Andrew J. Ehrlich, Esq., Nicholas Groombridge, Esq., Michael Pernick, Esq., Pietro Signoracci, Esq., Jordan Berson Yeager, Esq., Curtin & Heefner LLP, for Political Science Professors, Amicus Curiae.

Richard L. Bazelon, Esq., Bazelon Less & Feldman, P.C., for The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, Amicus Curiae.

Martin Jay Black, Esq., Dechert LLP, for Common Cause, Amicus Curiae.

Thomas M. Bondy, Esq., Hannah Garden–Monheit, Esq., Alison Melissa Kilmartin, Esq., E. Joshua Rosenkranz, Esq., for Grofman, Bernard, Amicus Curiae and Gaddie, Ronald Keith, Amicus Curiae.

Edward Diver, Esq., Peter E. Leckman, Esq., Langer Grogan & Diver, P.C., for Campaign Legal Center, Amicus Curiae.

James Christopher Martin, Esq., Traci Sands Rea, Esq., Colin Emmet Wrabley, Esq., Reed Smith LLP, for The Pittsburgh Foundation, Amicus Curiae.

Witold J. Walczak, Esq., American Civil Liberties Union, for American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Amicus Curiae and American Civil Liberties Union, National, Amicus Curiae.

Brian Anthony Gordon, Esq. Gordon & Ashworth, P.C., for Concerned Citizens for Democracy, Amicus Curiae.

SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY, JJ.

178 A.3d 740

OPINION

JUSTICE TODD

It is a core principle of our republican form of government "that the voters should choose their representatives, not

178 A.3d 741

the other way around."1 In this case, Petitioners allege that the Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting Act of 20112 (the "2011 Plan") does the latter, infringing upon that most central of democratic rights—the right to vote. Specifically, they contend that the 2011 Plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. While federal courts have, to date, been unable to settle on a workable standard by which to assess such claims under the federal Constitution, we find no such barriers under our great Pennsylvania charter. The people of this Commonwealth should never lose sight of the fact that, in its protection of essential rights, our founding document is the ancestor, not the offspring, of the federal Constitution. We conclude that, in this matter, it provides a constitutional standard, and remedy, even if the federal charter does not. Specifically, we hold that the 2011 Plan violates Article I, Section 5—the Free and Equal Elections Clause—of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The challenge herein was brought in June 2017 by Petitioners, the League of Women Voters3 and 18 voters—all registered Democrats, one from each of our state's congressional districts—against Governor Thomas W. Wolf, Lieutenant Governor Michael J. Stack, III, Secretary Robert Torres, and Commissioner Jonathan M. Marks (collectively, "Executive Respondents"), and the General Assembly, Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph B. Scarnati, III, and House Speaker Michael C. Turzai (collectively, "Legislative Respondents").4 5 Petitioners alleged that the 2011 Plan violated several provisions of our state Constitution.

On January 22, 2018, this Court entered a per curiam order6 agreeing with Petitioners, and deeming the 2011 Plan to "clearly, plainly and palpably violate[ ]" our state Constitution, and so enjoined its further use.7 See Order, 1/22/18. We further provided that, if the General Assembly and the Governor did not enact a remedial plan by February 15, 2018, this Court would choose a remedial plan. For those endeavors, we set forth the criteria to be applied in measuring the constitutionality

178 A.3d 742

of any remedial plan, holding that:

any congressional districting plan shall consist of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city, incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure equality of population.

Order, 1/22/18, ¶ "Fourth."8 Our Order indicated that an opinion would follow. This is that Opinion, and we emphasize that, while explicating our rationale, nothing in this Opinion is intended to conflict with, or in any way alter, the mandate set forth in our Order of January 22, 2018.9

I. Background

A. Redistricting Mandate

Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years for the purpose of apportioning the United States House of Representatives. Following the 2010 federal census, Pennsylvania's share in the House was reduced from 19 to 18 members.10 As a result, the Commonwealth was required to redraw its congressional district map.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts are drawn by the state legislature as a regular statute, subject to veto by the Governor.11 While this process is dictated

178 A.3d 743

by federal law, it is delegated to the states. The federal Constitution's Elections Clause provides that "[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof," unless Congress should "make or alter such Regulations." U.S. Const. art. I, § 4, cl. 1. Pursuant to the Elections Clause, Congress passed 2 U.S.C. § 2a, which provides that, following the decennial census and reapportionment, the Clerk of the House of Representatives shall "send to the executive of each State a certificate of the number of Representatives to which such State is entitled" and the state shall be redistricted "in the manner provided by the law thereof." 2 U.S.C. § 2a. If the state does not do so, Representatives are to be elected as further provided in Section 2a.12

B. Plan Passage

The 2011 Plan, Senate Bill 1249, was enacted on December 22, 2011, setting forth Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts.13 In the November 2010 general election, voters elected Republicans to majorities in both houses of the General Assembly and elected a Republican, Tom Corbett, as Governor. Thus, in 2011, the Republican-led General Assembly was tasked with reconstituting Pennsylvania's congressional districts, reducing their number by one, and adjusting their borders in light of population changes reflected by the 2010 Census. On May 11, June 9, and June 14, 2011, the Pennsylvania House and Senate State Government Committees held hearings on the subject of redistricting, for the ostensible purpose of receiving testimony and public comment on the subject of redistricting generally. On September 14, 2011, Senate Bill 1249, Printer's Number 1520, principally sponsored by the Republican leadership, was introduced, but contained absolutely no information concerning the boundaries of any congressional districts. On December 7, 2011, the bill was brought up for first consideration, and, on December 11, 2011, for second consideration.

Thereafter, the bill was referred to the Senate State Government Committee, where, on December 14, 2011, it was amended and reprinted as Senate Bill 1249, Printer's Number 1862, now providing proposed boundaries for each of...

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48 practice notes
  • Working Families Party v. Commonwealth, No. 34 EAP 2017
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 5 Junio 2019
    ...in our Commonwealth's Constitution and the meaning we have ascribed to it through our case law. League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth , 178 A.3d 737, 804 (Pa. 2018) (emphasis added) (hereinafter " LWV ").We noted in that case that our Free and Equal Elections Clause has no federal counterp......
  • Johnson v. Wis. Elections Comm'n, 2021AP1450-OA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • 30 Noviembre 2021
    ...when partisan gerrymandering is excessive. Indeed, other state courts have done it. See League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 178 A.3d 737, 814, 821 (Pa. 2018) (holding that claims of extreme partisan gerrymandering are cognizable under the Pennsylvania Constitution and striking do......
  • Rucho v. Common Cause, Nos. 18–422
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 27 Junio 2019
    ...between 45% and 51% of the statewide vote, but won only 5 of 18 House seats. See League of Women Voters v. Pennsylvania , 645 Pa. 1, 178 A.3d 737, 764 (2018). Or go next door to Ohio. There, in four congressional elections, Democrats tallied between 39% and 47% of the statewide vote, but ne......
  • Ohio A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Householder, No. 1:18-cv-357
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 15 Febrero 2019
    ...by which to evaluate compliance with their own state constitutions. See, e.g. , League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth , ––– Pa. ––––, 178 A.3d 737 (2018) ; see also id. at 816 (noting that the standards articulated "also comport with the minimum requirements for congressional districts gua......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • Working Families Party v. Commonwealth, No. 34 EAP 2017
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 5 Junio 2019
    ...in our Commonwealth's Constitution and the meaning we have ascribed to it through our case law. League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth , 178 A.3d 737, 804 (Pa. 2018) (emphasis added) (hereinafter " LWV ").We noted in that case that our Free and Equal Elections Clause has no federal counterp......
  • Johnson v. Wis. Elections Comm'n, 2021AP1450-OA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • 30 Noviembre 2021
    ...when partisan gerrymandering is excessive. Indeed, other state courts have done it. See League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 178 A.3d 737, 814, 821 (Pa. 2018) (holding that claims of extreme partisan gerrymandering are cognizable under the Pennsylvania Constitution and striking do......
  • Rucho v. Common Cause, Nos. 18–422
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 27 Junio 2019
    ...between 45% and 51% of the statewide vote, but won only 5 of 18 House seats. See League of Women Voters v. Pennsylvania , 645 Pa. 1, 178 A.3d 737, 764 (2018). Or go next door to Ohio. There, in four congressional elections, Democrats tallied between 39% and 47% of the statewide vote, but ne......
  • Ohio A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Householder, No. 1:18-cv-357
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 15 Febrero 2019
    ...by which to evaluate compliance with their own state constitutions. See, e.g. , League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth , ––– Pa. ––––, 178 A.3d 737 (2018) ; see also id. at 816 (noting that the standards articulated "also comport with the minimum requirements for congressional districts gua......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • VOTING RIGHTS AND THE UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE WINNER-TAKE-ALL ALLOCATION.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 66 Nbr. 3, March 2021
    • 22 Septiembre 2021
    ...2326 n.(7) (2020). (122.) Rucho v. Common Cause, 139 S. Ct. 2484,2497 (2019). (123.) See, e.g., League of Women Voters v. Pennsylvania, 178 A.3d 737, 741 (Pa. 2018); Common Cause v. Lewis, No. 18 CVS 014001,2019 WL 4569584, at * 1 (N.C. Super. Ct. Sept. 3, (124.) See generally David Schultz......
  • Do Redistricting Commissions Avoid Partisan Gerrymanders?
    • United States
    • American Politics Research Nbr. 50-3, May 2022
    • 1 Mayo 2022
    ...Voters of Florida v. Detzner (2015). 172 So. 3d363 (Fla.).League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v.The Commonwealth ofPennsylvania (2018). 178 A.3d 737, 741 (Pa).Lindgren, E., & Southwell, P. (2013). The effect of redistrictingcommissions on electoral competitiveness in U.S. Houseelections,......

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