September 06, 2017

Representatives Kilmer and Lowenthal Lead Bipartisan Amicus Brief to Supreme Court Calling for End to Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering

Washington D.C. – U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) – along with a bipartisan coalition of 34 current and former Members of Congress – submitted an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court late Monday night in a pending case before the court that could stop the undemocratic partisan gerrymandering of political districts.

The case before the Court, Gill v. Whitford, involves a group of Wisconsin voters who in 2015 challenged the Wisconsin state legislature’s 2011 redistricting map in federal court as an excessively partisan gerrymander barred by the Constitution. A lower court ruling last year found the map violated both the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment freedom of association. This fall, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the appeal to the lower court ruling.

“Voters should choose their elected officials rather than elected officials choosing their voters,” said Kilmer. “For too long partisan gerrymandering has exacerbated partisan divisions while weakening participation in our democracy. I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan push to bring people-power back to our political system.”

“I think that the bipartisan nature of the amicus brief took great courage, particularly with the Republicans, since they are currently in the majority,” said Lowenthal. “This bipartisan support shows that we agree—members of both parties—that excessive partisanship is putting a barrier between Members of Congress and their constituents, as well as contributing to the gridlock we see in Washington, D.C. It is time to bring some fairness back to the system.”

“Extreme partisan gerrymandering harms our political system, and harms the functioning of the House in particular,” wrote the Members in the brief. “Extreme partisan gerrymandering is undemocratic, and cannot be reconciled with the Framers’ idea of a House of Representatives that would be directly accountable to the People through competitive and broad-based elections. Partisan gerrymandering makes it more difficult for Members to do the one job voters expect above all: delivering results for their constituents.”

In the brief, the Members point out that the Supreme Court explained in 2015: “[T]he core principle of republican government [is] that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.” When legislators’ draw districts that ignore traditional criteria such as representational fairness, natural geography, and cohesive communities of interest, in favor of pure partisan gain, the brief explains, that “core principle” is violated.