Voting-rights advocates in Pennsylvania filed suit on Thursday to nullify the state’s congressional-district map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, joining other court battles over the role of politics in redistricting already being waged in three other states. It is the latest major legal effort arguing that gerrymanders have become so egregious they are subverting democracy and creating legislative races with predetermined results. In a tactical twist, however, the Pennsylvania lawsuit was filed in a state court, which means that if the plaintiffs prevail, the ruling would set no precedent for challenges in other states. The three other lawsuits, in Maryland, North Carolina and Wisconsin, were filed in federal court and argue that the maps of congressional or state legislative districts violate the federal Constitution.
A three-judge federal court panel has blocked Alabama from using in next year’s elections 12 legislative districts challenged as unconstitutional by black political groups. The districts are part of the district map drawn and approved by the Republican-led Alabama Legislature after the 2010 Census and were used in the 2014 election. The judges ruled for the plaintiffs on 12 of the 36 districts in dispute and enjoined the state from using those district lines again. The court ruled in favor of the state on the other 24 districts that were challenged. All 140 seats in the Alabama Legislature will be up for election next year. One of the three judges, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, issued a separate order dissenting, in part, from the other two judges, Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and Chief District Judge Keith Watkins.