Case Summary

On April 26, 2021, a group of registered voters filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, challenging the state's current congressional districts as unconstitutional. The plaintiffs alleged that due to population shifts over the last decade, the state's congressional districts have become unconstitutionally malapportioned in violation of the one person, one vote constitutional requirement. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that Pennsylvania's current congressional district plan violates the Free and Equal Elections and Petition Clauses of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, and 2 U.S.C. Section 2(c), and an injunction barring the defendants from using the current plan in any future elections. They also are requesting that the court implement a new congressional district plan that complies with one person, one vote in the event the General Assembly and Governor fail to do so.

Three different groups filed motions to intervene in the case as respondents: the legislative leaders of the Pennsylvania House and Senate, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and individual Republican voters, and a group of Pennsylvania voters. On September 2, 2021, the Commonwealth Court granted intervention to the legislative leaders, but denied it as to the Republican Party, individual Republican voters, and the group of Pennsylvania voters. In its opinion, the Court found that the state legislators should be permitted to intervene because their ability to legislate in the area of redistricting would be directly impaired if the Court imposed a deadline upon the General Assembly and Governor to enact a congressional districting plan, as the petitioners are requesting. In contrast, the Court found that the Republican Party had "no legally enforceable interest" in the litigation because the role they seek to play in the redistricting process is both speculative and not protected by law. Similarly, the Court found that the Republican and individual voters' claimed interests in the litigation were speculative and that their asserted interests in the redistricting process did not surpass the "common interest of all citizens" in the redistricting process.

On October 8, 2021, the court issued a memorandum opinion sustaining the Respondents' and Intervenors' preliminary objections to the petition's claims based on a lack of standing and ripeness. The court, while recognizing that the petitioners' rights might be harmed at some future time should the State fail to enact redistricting plans in a timely manner, found that the petitioners' alleged harm was too remote and too speculative to warrant court action at this time, and thus they lacked standing to sustain their claims. Similarly, the court found that the petitioners' claims were not ripe for judicial disposition either as the petitioners had alleged no immediate harm to date and their claims were contingent on "future uncertainties." For those reasons, the court dismissed the petition without prejudice, thereby bringing the case to an end.

Case Library

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania - No. 132 MD 2021