Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today—along with a bipartisan coalition of 23 current and former Members of Congress—submitted an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court Monday in a pending case that could stop the undemocratic partisan gerrymandering of political districts.
“This year the Supreme Court has the opportunity to once and for all end undemocratic partisan gerrymandering.” Congressman Lowenthal said. “Benisek v. Lamone in Maryland and Gill v. Whitford in Wisconsin, are just a couple of examples from across the country of this ongoing issue. Congressional maps across the nation drawn in 2010 were some of the most partisan ever devised. If partisan gerrymandering isn’t struck down as unconstitutional this year, the maps that we will see state legislatures draw after the 2020 census could be the most undemocratic ever imagined.”
Plaintiffs in the Benisek v. Lamone case—a group of Maryland voters--are challenging the congressional redistricting plan for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District which was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly following the 2010 Census. The plaintiffs’ in the case, and the amicus, claim that it is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, violating their right to representation and political association.
The brief argues, in part, “Efforts by the government to subordinate persons on account of their political affiliation cannot be squared with the freedom of speech and association the Constitution guarantees to all. The state may not place unequal burdens on a group of voters’ opportunities to elect their representatives simply because of the party with which they associate. This is viewpoint discrimination pure and simple.”
Last year, a lower court panel ordered a stay on proceedings in the Benisek v. Lamone case pending a Supreme Court decision on the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford. On December 8, 2017, the Supreme Court announced that it would add the case to their docket for this session of the court. The case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
In September 2017, Congressman Lowenthal lead a similar bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief to the Supreme Court for the Gill v. Whitford case.
“I applaud the Supreme Court taking the Maryland partisan gerrymandering case in addition to the earlier challenge to the Wisconsin maps,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “It highlights that the issue of partisan gerrymandering isn’t simply a tool being used by one party, but rather a tool being used by whichever party has power at the time of redistricting. Democrat, Republican--it doesn’t matter--partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional and it is time for fairness in our electoral system. It is time for fair maps.”
A longtime champion of redistricting reform and the end of gerrymandering, Congressman Lowenthal introduced legislation while serving in the California Legislature to stop politicians from drawing their own legislative districts. This legislation served as the precursor to what eventually would become the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The first piece of legislation that the Congressman introduced upon serving in the House of Representatives was the Let the People Draw the Lines Act of 2013, which would have required each state to establish an independent redistricting commission similar to California’s redistricting commission. In 2015, Congressman Lowenthal lead the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief for Supreme Court case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, supporting the right of citizens to establish independent redistricting commissions. Congressman Lowenthal is also the author of H.Res.283, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that congressional redistricting should be reformed to remove political gerrymandering.
The full text of the Benisek v. Lamone amicus brief can be read by clicking here