Fitzpatrick leads call for legal standard to curb excessive political gerrymandering

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) led dozens of current and former lawmakers on Wednesday in calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to limit partisan gerrymandering in the Gill v. Whitford case that will be heard on Oct. 3.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) challenged Wisconsin State Assembly electoral district lines that were drawn in 2011 as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander on behalf of 12 Wisconsin voters.

Despite Wisconsin being a closely divided state, the redrawing of the district lines benefited Republicans, who gained 60 percent of the seats in the Wisconsin State Assembly, despite receiving only 49 percent of the statewide vote in 2012.

A panel of three judges ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford, striking down the state assembly district map in November 2016. After an appeal was filed in February, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in June to hear oral arguments in the case.

Fitzpatrick led a bipartisan group of current and former lawmakers in an amicus brief that urged the U.S. Supreme Court to set limits on extreme partisan gerrymander in the landmark case.

The high court ruled in 2006 that it has authority to rule on gerrymandering claims, and a majority of justices ruled that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, but the court has not adopted a legal standard.

“The framers intended the House of Representatives to be the ‘People’s House’ — an institution directly accountable to the electorate through frequent and competitive elections,” Fitzpatrick said. “Extreme partisan redistricting undermines constituent-focused representation and forces lawmakers to ideological extremes, growing the divide of partisanship that grinds the gears of government to a halt. Basic limits on extreme gerrymandering will make Congress a more representative institution by giving the American people fewer politicians and more independent voices focused on serving.”

Trevor Potter, the president of CLC and former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said he was pleased to see many of “America’s most accomplished Republican leaders urging the Supreme Court to rein in excessive partisan gerrymandering.”

“They know that the legitimacy of all elected officials comes from being freely chosen by voters, not by seizing power from voters to keep themselves in control,” Potter said. “We are confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”