Motion to dismiss partially denied in PA redistricting case News
Motion to dismiss partially denied in PA redistricting case

A three-judge panel for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] denied in part [order, PDF] a motion to dismiss [PDF] filed by intervenor defendants in Agre v. Wolf [advocacy website], a Pennsylvania redistricting case. The initial complaint [PDF] in the lawsuit, filed on October 2, alleges that the current Pennsylvania districting maps favor Republicans and violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments [LII materials].

The judges denied the motion to dismiss the suit in relation to Count I, which asserts that the General Assembly’s 2011 districting plan “intentionally interferes” and “deprives plaintiffs of their rights of federal citizenship under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” by concentrating Democratic voters in the “fewest possible Congressional districts.”

Count II, which contends the plan denies equal protection because it “treats [plaintiffs] in an intentionally discriminatory and unequal manner by classifying them because of their voting preference” without a “legitimate or lawful purpose”, was dismissed with prejudice.

Count III alleges that classifying plaintiffs into the Congressional districts proposed by the 2011 plan abridges their freedom of speech under the First Amendment. The complaint claims that the plan is designed to filter the speech and points of view constituents of certain districts hear and receive:

The 2011 Plan concentrates as many Democratic voters as possible in the fewest Congressional districts and thereby denies opportunities of plaintiffs and others to speak and engage with likely Republican voters without the General Assembly screening voters based upon their likely political views. While any districting plan would affect speech in some manner, the 2011 Plan intentionally seeks to amplify speech for one party over another.

On this count, the court granted the motion to dismiss but without prejudice and gave the plaintiffs until November 17 to provide further details concerning the alleged relationship between the elections clause and the First Amendment. Additionally, the plaintiffs were given the same amount of time to “amend the complaint to add one voter from each Congressional district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.

At oral argument on Wednesday, the three-judge court denied 14 Democratic voters the motion to intervene as plaintiffs. A written order has not yet been entered on that ruling.