Supreme Court To Decide On Md Redistricting Case

It involves the 6th Congressional District.


Frederick, Md (KM). A care heard before the US Supreme Court last week could have implications in the future when it comes to redrawing Congressional Districts.

It involves the 6th Congressional District, which extends from Potomac in Montgomery County through parts of Frederick County, to Washington Allegany and Garrett Counties. That’s the way it was drawn following the 2010 census. Prior to that, it did not include Montgomery County, but it did include Carroll County. The district had been represented by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R) since 1993. He lost in 2012 to Democrat John Delaney.

The plaintiffs in this case are arguing that the Democratic leadership in Maryland at the time, including then-Governor Martin O’Malley, reconfigured the district so that Democrats would have a better chance of winning. They claim their 1st-Amendment rights under the US Constitution are being violated.

But the defendants take issue with that. The stateĀ  saidĀ  Congressman Delaney had a difficult time winning re-election in 2014, and gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan, a Republican, won that same year against Democrat Anthony Brown.

“What’s unusual about this case is that it’s actually a case where Democrats have the advantage rather than Republicans,” says Nick Goedert, a political science professor at Virginia Tech. “And most of the redistricting cases that we’ve seen involved Republican drawn maps.”

In fact, the Supreme Court heard a case in October involving the redrawing of the legislative districts in Wisconsin by the majority Republicans who are charged with reconfiguring the districts to favor the GOP.

In most cases, following the ten-year census, the majority parties in state legislatures appoint their own commissions to redraw their Congressional and legislative districts. And as it’s often the case, the majority ends up reconfiguring the districts to favor their party. “Partisan intent has been around for centuries when drawing maps. And there’s always going to be some debate about what amount of partisan intent is needed before it becomes unconstitutional,” says Goedert.

But proving partisan effect is not easy either, he says. “There are a lot of different measures. And from election to election, the underlying balance of the electorate also shifts, ” Geodert says.

No matter how the Justices decide, Geodert says it will probably change the way Congressional and legislative districts are redrawn in the future. “When you take all of these cases together as a whole, I think you could see a lot of movement toward a more non-partisan process on a nationwide basis,” he says. “Now it would come step by step, state by state. But you would see a lot movement in a number of states to a more non-partisan process.”

Geodert says some states use a non-partisan commission to reconfigure their Congressional and legislative districts, which takes the politics out of the process.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on this case in June.


By Kevin McManus