Common Cause helped bring down Pennsylvania’s old congressional district map. Now, in a twist, the good-government group might undo the new map that replaced it. Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said his organization and the state NAACP are considering filing suit in federal court to challenge the new map imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week. He said it may violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned obstacles to voting by minorities. Under Pennsylvania’s former 2011 map, drawn by Republicans, nonwhites make up a majority of residents in two Philadelphia-based congressional districts. In the new map, people of color appear to be the majority in only one district, he said. “In general, I think the new map is a really big win for democracy in Pennsylvania,” Sims said. “However, we want to make sure that it is not disenfranchising voters, particularly in Philadelphia.”
Common Cause has recruited several of the plaintiffs for the lawsuit that led to the 2011 map’s being struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as unconstitutionally gerrymandered. It also is a leader in the Fair Districts PA coalition.
The NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, too, has argued that the gerrymandered 2011 map amounted to “voter suppression.” This week, it submitted the new map to the national association’s legal team to determine whether it complies with the Voting Rights Act.
Minister Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, said the new one splits up communities of color. “They’re broken apart and minimized in a way that they could never hope to make meaningful change,” he said. “This disengages and disempowers people. And, frankly, all of the apathy that we’ve had to fight against? This only reinforces it.”