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Judicial Watch • Judicial Watch Continues Fight against Maryland Gerrymandering in US Supreme Court

Judicial Watch Continues Fight against Maryland Gerrymandering in US Supreme Court

Judicial Watch Continues Fight against Maryland Gerrymandering in US Supreme Court

JANUARY 05, 2017

(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch filed a brief in the U. S. Supreme Court in response to Maryland’s attempt to retain its current gerrymandered voter districting plan.  Judicial Watch is seeking a decision from the high court that would reverse a Maryland district court decision.  The filing was the latest development in a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch in 2015, arguing that the controversial redistricting plan is unconstitutional because it transferred “the power to select congressional representatives from Maryland’s voters to legislators” (Parrot et al., v. Lamone et al. (No 16-588).

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters across Maryland, including Maryland Delegates Neil C. Parrott, Matt Morgan and former Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey (Parrott et al, v. Lamone, et al (No. 1:15-cv-01849)). In August 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland ruled for the state in dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims.  Judicial Watch filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in October 2016. The state filed its Motion to Affirm the District Court’s ruling in early December. And on December 20, Judicial Watch filed its Brief Opposing the Motion to Affirm.

Judicial Watch argues that there is a causal connection between “noncompact” districts and gerrymandering:

To obtain an electoral advantage, “mapmakers need to arrange both their own partisans and those of their electoral opponents in particular district configurations….” But “voters do not choose where to live so as to suit the purposes of legislators trying to draw gerrymandered districts….” This is why “legislators must distort district boundaries to create districts that contain the mix of voters that best achieves . . . partisan goals.”

In referring to Maryland’s “wildly deformed” congressional district plan, Judicial Watch further argues that Maryland’s gerrymandered district plan produces split counties, county fragments and split precincts.

The Maryland congressional redistricting plan was signed into law by then-Governor Martin O’Malley in October 2011.  The Judicial Watch lawsuit contends that Maryland’s congressional district map is the most gerrymandered in the United States, arguing that it violates Article 1, Section 2 and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the Judicial Watch Supreme Court appeal:

[T]he gerrymandering of Maryland’s congressional districts … allows Maryland legislators to steal for themselves a significant portion of power to select congresspersons, which power should only be exercised “by the People”…  In their complaint, the Appellants assert that “[g]errymandering is not something that Democrats and Republicans do to each other.  Gerrymandering is something that legislators and other state actors do to voters.”

The appeal proposes that the Supreme Court adopt a single, objective “compactness measure,” such as the Polsby-Popper scale.  The scale would enable courts and other observers to determine whether states had engaged in unconstitutional gerrymandering.   Robert Popper, co-creator of the Polsby-Popper Scale, is the lead Judicial Watch attorney in the lawsuit and directs Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project.

Critics of the Maryland plan have charged that the new congressional map was designed specifically to minimize the voting power of particular voters.  The Washington Post editorialized:

The map, drafted under Mr. O’Malley’s watchful eye, mocks the idea that voting districts should be compact or easily navigable.   The eight districts respect neither jurisdictional boundaries nor communities of interest. To protect incumbents and for partisan advantage, the map has been sliced, diced, shuffled and shattered, making districts resemble studies in cubism.

“Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional district map treats voters like cattle, herding them into districts that defy sense,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “Traditionally, it has been accepted that the people select their elected representatives.  But currently in Maryland, it’s the legislators who are selecting their constituents. The Supreme Court should address the unconstitutional corruption of gerrymandering, beginning with Maryland.”

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