ANNAPOLIS – Republican Gov. Larry Hogan voiced dismay Monday that the Democratic-led General Assembly let die his annual proposal for an independent commission to redraw Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional districts, saying he retains hope the Supreme Court will rule partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional.
“I think the Supreme Court is going to act,” Hogan said. “I think we’re going to win that case.”
Hogan’s comments came at a news conference in the 2018 General Assembly’s waning hours and as the Supreme Court considers a Republican voters’ challenge to Maryland’s 6th congressional district as having been redrawn to ensure the election of a Democratic representative and in retaliation for the district having elected a GOP one.
The Republican voters claim the redrawing violated their First Amendment right to political association, a position Hogan has supported in a separate brief to the justices. The office of Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat, counters that the determination of whether political gerrymandering violates the First Amendment is neither judicially manageable nor justiciable due to the sanctity of the secret ballot, the inherent flaws of polling data and the inability to define how much voter dilution is too much.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 28 in the case, Benisek v. Lamone, No. 17-333, and are expected to render their decision by summer.
The General Assembly redrew the 6th District following the 2010 U.S. Census to include a significant swath of Democrat-rich Montgomery County, which the Republicans claim was a deliberate effort to dilute their vote from the state’s five western counties, thereby ensuring the election of a Democratic representative over the then-GOP incumbent. (The lawsuit initially challenged districts statewide but was amended to focus solely on the 6th District.)
U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the Republican who had represented the district since 1993, lost his re-election bid to John Delaney, a Democrat, in 2012. Delaney handily won re-election in 2014 and 2016.
The justices are also considering a similar Wisconsin case that addresses whether GOP lawmakers in that state drew legislative districts so contrary to the state’s political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters. A decision in that case, Gill v. Whitford, is also expected by the summer.