A Maryland judge has struck down new U.S. House district maps drawn by the state General Assembly, ruling it an unconstitutional gerrymander that unfairly favors Democrats.
In a 94-page ruling, Judge Lynne Battaglia ruled in favor of Republican groups, including one backed by Gov. Larry HoganLarry HoganMaryland, Georgia halt state gas taxesMaryland to consider banning cat declawingMaryland to drop college degree requirement for more state jobsMORE (R), and voters who said their voices were being shut out. Two lawsuits, condensed into a single case, cited a 1972 amendment to the state constitution that requires compact districts and orders legislators to consider natural boundaries and political subdivisions.
Battaglia ordered the General Assembly to try again to draw new congressional district maps that adhere to the state constitution.
[P]opular sovereignty is the paramount consideration in a republican, democratic government. The limitation of the undue extension of power by any branch of government must be exercised to ensure that the will of the people is heard, no matter under which political placard those governing reside, Battaglia wrote. “The map legislative Democrats passed subverts that will of those governed.Democrats control supermajorities of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. They used those majorities to draw new district lines that would have given their party an edge in all eight of the states congressional districts, adding thousands of new Democratic voters in Anne Arundel County to an Eastern Shore district currently held by Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter Harris16 House Republicans vote against bill to promote education on internment campsOn The Money US suspending normal trade with RussiaCongress overrides DC voters, keeps sales of marijuana illegal in DistrictMORE (D).
The effort to tilt Harriss seat toward Democrats came a decade after the legislative majority engineered a similar gerrymander that dramatically redrew a district in western Maryland, held by then-Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). Bartlett lost his seat in the subsequent election.
But a decade ago, Democrat Martin OMalley held the governors mansion in Annapolis. This year, Hogan holds office. Hogan vetoed the Democratic-passed maps, though his veto was overridden.
Fair Maps Maryland, a group Hogan backs, celebrated the ruling as a major win for the GOP.
Judge Battaglias ruling confirms what we have all known for years Maryland is ground zero for gerrymandering, our districts and political reality reek of it, and there is abundant proof that it is occurring, the group said in a statement. Marylanders have been fighting for free and fair elections for decades and for the first time in our states shameful history of gerrymandering, we are at the precipice of ending it.Hogan has backed a nonpartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission, which produced its own maps last year. In a statement, Hogan urged the General Assembly to take up those maps.
Democrats appear likely to appeal the ruling, and a final decision is likely to come from the state Court of Appeals, Marylands equivalent of a Supreme Court.
Marylands map was among one of the more aggressive attempts at gerrymandering in the nation, along with states like Oregon, also controlled by Democrats, and Ohio and Texas, controlled by Republicans.
Republicans lost a suit challenging the Oregon maps, while Democrats have won several rounds before the Ohio Supreme Court. The federal Justice Department is suing Texas over its new maps.