Twelve Maryland Republican voters have sued to throw out the state legislature’s congressional redistricting plan, arguing that the “political gerrymander” violates their voting rights.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court came after the Democrat-controlled legislature rejected a bipartisan commission’s proposed map and replaced it with a version increasing the chances that all eight congressional seats will be won by Democrats in 2022.
“We have been cheated of real representation for 10 years and now is the time to bring our communities together and to get our voice back,” said Republican state Delegate Neil Parrott, the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.
Democrats currently hold seven of the state’s eight congressional seats, even though the lawsuit said Republican voters cast about 35% of the votes for 2020 congressional candidates.
“Unfortunately, Democrats in the legislature went beyond politics, and into abuse of power in setting up Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional maps,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “This lawsuit seeks to protect the rights of all voters and citizens. Simply put: politicians shouldn’t get to pick their voters.”
Last month, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan sent the legislature a redistricting plan drawn by the bipartisan Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which would have created six Democratic and two Republican districts. The plan received an “A” from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
Rather than adopting the plan, the legislature passed a map that boosted the Democrats’ chances of ousting the lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the plan an “F.”
“The Plan diminishes the ability of Republican voters, including Plaintiffs, to cast a meaningful and effective vote for the candidates they prefer,” said the lawsuit. “The Plan inflicts on Republican voters, including Plaintiffs, an electoral misfortune on the basis of, and in retaliation for, the previous exercise of their constitutional rights to vote and to speak and express their views.”
Mr. Hogan ripped the “disgracefully illegal gerrymandered maps” after Democratic legislators overrode his Dec. 8 veto, then called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to sue the state for civil-rights violations.
Mr. Garland has yet to take up the governor on his offer. Last week, the Justice Department filed a complaint against the Republican-friendly Texas redistricting map for alleged violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.
One hurdle facing the Maryland lawsuit is the 2019 Supreme Court decision in Lamone v. Benisek, which held that partisan gerrymandering complaints fall beyond the court’s reach.
Then again, state courts have been known to weigh in on redistricting cases involving state issues, which is what Mr. Parrott is counting on.
Mr. Parrott, one of the 12 plaintiffs and a 2022 congressional contender, noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out a Republican-configured congressional map in 2018, saying it violated the state constitution.
He predicted that the case would ultimately reach the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
“If it goes to the Court of Appeals, they’re going to look at what happened in Pennsylvania, they’re going to look at the Maryland state constitution, and they’re going to say, ‘Clearly, you completely disregarded the Maryland constitution when you drew this map. It’s not contiguous. It’s not compact. You crossed the county lines over 20 times. You had no respect at all,’” said Mr. Parrott at a Dec. 3 press conference.
Democrats have defended the redistricting plan, citing the difficulties associated with the state’s geography, although Maryland’s reputation for fractured, misshapen districts precedes it.
The Third Congressional District held by Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes was described by The Washington Post as the “most gerrymandered district in America.”