Re­dis­trict­ing a big need in Mary­land

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum -

Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s been say­ing it. His pre­de­ces­sor Martin O’Mal­ley even copped to it. Now a fed­eral judge has or­dered it be reme­died. Mary­land’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts have been of­fi­cially de­clared ger­ry­man­dered.

U.S. Court of Ap­peals Judge Paul V. Niemeyer is­sued an opin­ion Nov. 7 call­ing for Mary­land’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts to be re­drawn fol­low­ing com­plaints from Repub­li­cans who ar­gued that their First Amend­ment rights have been vi­o­lated.

They claimed, and the judge up­held, that when the 6th District was re­drawn fol­low­ing the 2010 U.S. cen­sus, state of­fi­cials all the way up to then Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley sought to flip the district from a Re­pub­li­can strong­hold to one more likely to elect a Demo­crat to Congress.

O’Mal­ley ad­mit­ted to his role in the ger­ry­man­der­ing scheme in a speech last year at the Boston Col­lege School of Law. “As a gover­nor, I held that re­dis­trict­ing pen in my own Demo­cratic hand. I was con­vinced that we should use our po­lit­i­cal power to pass a map that was more fa­vor­able for the elec­tion of Demo­cratic can­di­dates. That in this hyper-par­ti­san era, we should not ‘dis­arm uni­lat­er­ally.’ That this was le­gal and passes Con­sti­tu­tional muster. And it did,” read a copy of O’Mal­ley’s speech.

State Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) was in on it as well, as shown by re­marks pre­pared for him that speak di­rectly to an op­por­tu­nity to tar­get the long­time in­cum­bent Re­pub­li­can rep­re­sent­ing the 6th District, Roscoe Bartlett.

“In the face of Re­pub­li­can gains in re­dis­trict­ing in other states around the na­tion, we have a se­ri­ous obli­ga­tion to cre­ate this op­por­tu­nity,” the pre­pared re­marks for Miller state.

“[N]o party disputes the ma­te­rial facts in the record, although the par­ties do dis­pute the le­gal con­se­quences that flow from them,” Niemeyer wrote in his opin­ion.

The re­dis­trict­ing process is re­quired af­ter ev­ery U.S. cen­sus, so ev­ery 10 years. The goal is to en­sure that con­gres­sional dis­tricts main­tain about equal pop­u­la­tions, up­hold­ing the con­cept of “one man, one vote.”

Ac­cord­ing to the facts of the case, in re­view­ing the 6th District, which his­tor­i­cally com­prises west­ern Mary­land and stretched along the Ma­son Dixon line to Har­ford County, the pop­u­la­tion as of the 2010 cen­sus had grown to 10,186 more res­i­dents than the ideal district size of 721,529 peo­ple. That’s all that needed to be shifted in re­draw­ing the 6th District: 10,186 peo­ple.

Those re­draw­ing the maps, led by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.-5th) — whom the judge noted re­ferred to as “a serial ger­ry­man­derer” — moved 66,000 Repub­li­cans out of the 6th District and added 24,000 Democrats. The west­ern Mary­land district now in­cluded swaths of Mont­gomery County. Bartlett lost his seat.

By the way, they also con­sid­ered flip­ping the 1st District, com­pris­ing the en­tirety of Mary­land’s East­ern Shore. They did not be­cause, ac­cord­ing to the facts of the case, that would have re­quired tak­ing the 1st District across the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay to An­napo­lis. In­stead, they ac­cepted that it would re­main solidly Re­pub­li­can by pack­ing in as many GOP’ers as pos­si­ble while wrap­ping across the top of the bay.

If con­cerns over Mary­land’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts sounds fa­mil­iar, they were the sub­ject of pre­vi­ous law­suits, fo­cused on the bizarrely drawn 3rd District that wraps around and in­cludes por­tions of Bal­ti­more City. It was the sub­ject of two ger­ry­man­der­ing suits, the first based on par­ti­san­ship, the sec­ond on racial com­po­si­tion.

In a pre­vi­ous rul­ing on the 3rd District, Niemeyer opined that it was drawn worse than the Mas­sachusetts dis­tricts es­tab­lished in the early 1800s by then Gov. El­bridge Gerry, said by one news­pa­per to look like a sala­man­der, or “Gerry-man­der,” and thus adding a new term to the lex­i­con.

“In form, the orig­i­nal Mas­sachusetts Ger­ry­man­der looks tame by com­par­i­son, as this is more rem­i­nis­cent of a bro­ken-winged ptero­dactyl, ly­ing pros- trate across the cen­ter of the State,” Niemeyer pre­vi­ously wrote of the 3rd District.

Ho­gan has re­peat­edly sought to change Mary­land’s re­dis­trict­ing process, mak­ing it non­par­ti­san. He may now have his op­por­tu­nity. Last week, he is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to es­tab­lish a non­par­ti­san com­mis­sion to re­draw the 6th District in ac­cor­dance with the court rul­ing. He also plans to sub­mit leg­is­la­tion for a fourth time to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly to cod­ify a non­par­ti­san process; his pre­vi­ous three sub­mis­sions were never brought to a vote.

Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh is ap­peal­ing the fed­eral court rul­ing to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has asked that or­ders re­quir­ing the re­draw­ing of the 6th District be stayed or re­scinded un­til the Supreme Court is­sues its opin­ion. He has said he does not want ef­forts to have to be du­pli­cated, wast­ing pub­lic re­sources, in re­draw­ing dis­tricts if the high­est court in the coun­try of­fers dif­fer­ent guid­ance.

We want to see the re­dis­trict­ing process move ahead. We have dis­agreed with the 2011 re­dis­trict­ing process since the day it launched. The map of the con­gres­sional dis­tricts is ridicu­lous and while O’Mal­ley thought it le­gal at the time, we are happy to see a judge fi­nally rule what we and Ho­gan have long agreed on: that Mary­land’s dis­tricts are some of the most ger­ry­man­dered in the coun­try.

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