The Democrat who next month will begin representing a Maryland congressional district at the heart of a constitutional challenge to partisan gerrymandering has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to validate the controversial district as having been reasonably redrawn.
In papers filed with the justices Wednesday, David Trone stated through counsel that the Democratic-drawn 6th Congressional District does not trample on the rights of Republican voters to political association, because the western Maryland enclave meets what he recommended as a five-factor legal test of validity if any of the factors is met.
Under this test, a congressional district passes constitutional muster if it is “reasonably compact and cohesive; more compact and cohesive than its predecessor; reasonably competitive as measured by the percentage split in party registrations; more competitive, as measured by the percentage split in party registrations, than its predecessor; or more competitive than the state wide split in party registration,” wrote Trone’s attorneys, William J. Murphy and John J. Connolly of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP in Baltimore.
Trone, who takes office Jan. 3, stated that the 6th district satisfies all of the factors.
Trone submitted the brief in support of Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s Supreme Court appeal of a three-judge panel’s November decision that the 6th district was redrawn with such a partisan bias by the state’s Democratic leaders as to violate the First Amendment right of GOP voters. The panel, in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, also ordered the state to redraw the district to have greater partisan balance.
The decision and order have been stayed pending Supreme Court resolution. The high court is scheduled to meet Jan. 4 to consider whether to hear the appeal by Frosh, a Democrat, in Linda H.Lamone et al. v. O. John Benisek et al., No. 18-726.
Urging the high court to hear the appeal, Trone stated that his proposed five-factor test would spare the judiciary from having to inject itself into political disputes, as he contended the district court panel might have done.
“The three-judge court’s evident exasperation with partisan gerrymandering may have impelled it to find a judicial solution,” Trone’s attorneys wrote. “Amicus (Trone) himself is no fan of partisan gerrymandering, but that does not mean it is a terminal disease, much less one that the judiciary can or should cure. The district-by-district resolutions that would come from judicial review of partisan gerrymandering claims can only mire the courts in partisan politics.”
The three-judge panel held last month that the Maryland’s Democratic-led government, in redrawing congressional districts following the 2010 census, “specifically targeted voters in the 6th Congressional District who were registered as Republicans and who had historically voted for Republican candidates.”
The judges noted that the redrawn map removed 66,000 GOP voters from the district and added 24,000 Democratic voters in their places.
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. Delaney chose not to run for re-election in 2018 in order to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Trone was elected Nov. 6 to succeed Delaney.