Pennsylvania gerrymandering case moves forward in Commonwealth Court

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The case of whether the way Pennsylvania’s legislative districts are drawn to give to give one party an unfair advantage over another, moved forward Monday.

The League of Women voters filed the lawsuit with several other petitioners against the Commonwealth and the General Assembly.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately will make a decision on this case, but the purpose of today’s hearing in Commonwealth Court is to decide what evidence can be presented in court because as the judge stated “you can’t un-ring a bell.”

The Commonwealth Court heard eight pre-trial motions filed by both sides on what evidence, which witnesses or what testimony should or should not be used in the case.

At issue is how congressional districts were drawn in Pennsylvania after the 2010 census, including one district map described as looking like ‘Goofy kicking Donald Duck.’ Some say the drawings are not fair, giving the Republican Party an unfair advantage over Democrats.

The judge granted the petitioners motion to exclude testimony from a group of 36 republicans, referred to as the interveners.

The judge felt their part in the case was unnecessary because it was repetitive. Those three dozen Republicans would present a point of view very similar to the state.

The judge will allow certain experts to testify on behalf of the state.

The League of Women Voters wanted some barred, but the judge said those experts will be cross examined and therefore allowed to testify.

Other motions focused on whether evidence used in the federal gerrymandering case could be used in Pennsylvania . The judge said documents used in the federal case would be public record, and if one of their experts used evidence in that case, then it could be used in this case.

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania executive director Suzanne Almeida said “I think that we got off to a great start. We heard some brilliant oral arguments, from both sides, and I think that the judge, did a good job of figuring out kind of where those lines are.”

Two of the petitioners testified in court, a teacher from the 12th district near Pittsburgh, and a retirement community chaplain from West Chester in the 7th district. They believe the way the congressional districts are currently drawn prevents, their voices from being heard.

Meanwhile, the hearing is expected to last until Friday.