Ho­gan calls for re­dis­trict­ing panel

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL DIVILIO [email protected]­coun­tynews.com

AN­NAPO­LIS — Gov. Larry Ho­gan is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Mon­day es­tab­lish­ing an emergency com­mis­sion to draw new con­gres­sional dis­tricts af­ter a fed­eral judge ruled the state’s Sixth District is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Fed­eral judges is­sued opin­ions ear­lier this month say­ing the 6th District, as re­drawn in 2011 in a process over­seen by then-Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley, vi­o­lates cit­i­zens’ First Amend­ment rights.

“This is a vic­tory for the vast ma­jor­ity of Mary­lan­ders who want free and fair elec­tions and the nu­mer­ous ad­vo­cates from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum who have been fight­ing par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing in our state for decades. With this unan­i­mous rul­ing, the fed­eral court is con­firm­ing what we in Mary­land have known for a long time — that we have the most ger­ry­man­dered dis­tricts in the coun­try, they were drawn this way for par­ti­san reasons, and they vi­o­late Mar ylan­ders’ con­sti­tu­tional rights,” Ho­gan said in a state­ment fol­low­ing the opin­ion’s re­lease Nov. 7.

The term “ger­ry­man­der” comes from the early 1800s, when Mas­sachusetts Gov. El­bridge Gerry drew dis­tricts fa­vor­ing his party but which one news­pa­per likened to the shape of a sala­man­der.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease is­sued Mon­day from Ho­gan’s of­fice, his ex­ec­u­tive or­der calls for a non­par­ti­san com­mis­sion to sub­mit a new map for the 6th District for pub­lic com­ment by March 4. It would then go to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly by April 2.

His­tor­i­cally, the 6th District in­cluded west­ern Mary­land and stretched along the north­ern state line into Har­ford County. For 20 years, it was rep­re­sented by Re­pub­li­can Roscoe Bartlett.

Fol­low­ing the 2010 U.S. Cen­sus, the state un­der­took manda­tory re­dis­trict­ing ef­forts to en­sure the new pop­u­la­tion fig­ures main­tained the stan­dard of “one man, one vote.”

When the lines for the 6th District were re­drawn, it re­tained Gar­rett, Wash­ing­ton and Al­le­gany coun­ties. But rather than con­tinue through the north­ern parts of Fred­er­ick, Car­roll, Bal­ti­more and Har­ford coun­ties, it turned south to pick up a large por­tion of Mont­gomer y County.

Of Mary­land’s eight con­gres­sional dis­tricts, the 1st and 6th were seen as Re­pub­li­can strongholds. Fol­low­ing the 2011 re­dis­trict­ing, the 6th turned Demo­crat.

In his Nov. 7 opin­ion, U.S. Court of Ap­peals Judge Paul V. Niemeyer said the court will en­ter an in­junc­tion bar­ring the state from hold­ing any ad­di­tional elec­tions for the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives un­der the 2011 re­dis­trict­ing plan and di­rects the state to promptly adopt new dis­tricts ad­dress­ing the con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions found re­gard­ing the 6th District.

“While the State ar­gues that a per­ma­nent in­junc­tion will be un­duly dis­rup­tive, we note our judg­ment is be­ing is­sued two years be­fore the next gen­eral elec­tion — a time pe­riod that will al­low the state to com­ply in an or­derly fash­ion,” Niemeyer wrote. “(W)e be­lieve that re­draw­ing district lines to com­ply with the Con­sti­tu­tion will not sow any ad­di­tional con­fu­sion beyond that caused by the illegal lines them­selves.”

Niemeyer found that the state bur­dened the tar­geted Re­pub­li­can vot­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tional rights and their right of as­so­ci­a­tion “as demon­strated by voter con­fu­sion, di­min­ished par­tic­i­pa­tion in Re­pub­li­can or­ga­ni­za­tional ef­forts in the Sixth District, and di­min­ished Re­pub­li­can par­tic­i­pa­tion in vot­ing, as well as de­creased Re­pub­li­can fundrais­ing.”

“To be sure, cit­i­zens have no con­sti­tu­tional right to be as­signed to a district that is likely to elect a rep­re­sen­ta­tive that shares their views. But they do have a right un­der the First Amend­ment not to have the value of their vote di­min­ished be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal views they have ex­pressed through their party af­fil­i­a­tion and vot­ing his­tory,” Niemeyer wrote. “This tar­get­ing of a cit­i­zen’s view­point is typ­i­cal of First Amend­ment vi­o­la­tions in other con­texts.”

Ho­gan, a Re­pub­li­can, has re­peat­edly raised is­sues about the re­dis­trict­ing process and the maps ap­proved un­der the watch of O’Mal­ley, a Demo­crat. Ho­gan is us­ing this month’s rul­ing on the 6th District as another chance to push for re­dis­trict­ing to be­come a non-po­lit­i­cal process.

“Free and fair elec­tions are the very foun­da­tion of Amer­i­can democ­racy and the most ba­sic prom­ise that those in power can pledge to the cit­i­zens we rep­re­sent,” Ho­gan said Mon­day. “This unan­i­mous rul­ing was a vic­tory for the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Mary­lan­ders who value fair­ness and bal­ance in our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem — who are fed up with the di­vi­sive par­ti­san pol­i­tics that are used to sup­press any hon­est de­bate or real com­pe­ti­tion of ideas.”


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