The three-judge panel on Wednesday ordered the state to submit the new map by March 7. Otherwise, the court will appoint a commission to produce a redistricting plan for use in the 2020 congressional election.
A panel of three federal judges has ruled that the boundaries of Maryland’s 6th congressional district were unconstitutionally drawn in 2011 to benefit Democrats, at the expense of Republican voters’ rights.
The court ordered Maryland to submit a plan by March 7 to remedy the problem or else it will appoint a three-member commission to do the job.
The fix could result in an entirely new map, or one that involves changes to a few districts — perhaps just the 6th District and the neighboring 8th District.
Here is what people are saying about Wednesday’s ruling:
The judges: “These injuries were the direct result of the state’s purpose to convert the 6th district from a solid Republican district to a Democratic district,” wrote Judge Paul Niemeyer of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A panel of federal judges in Baltimore has suggested settlement discussions be pursued in a case in which Republican voters in Maryland's 6th congressional district want to toss out a map they say was crafted to benefit Democrats. The district stretches from Montgomery County to western Maryland.
U.S. District Judge George L. Russell wrote in a concurring opinion: “There is an illegal, partisan gerrymander in Maryland, and it succeeded in flipping the 6th district.”
Maryland Democrats: Elected Democratic officials have long expressed concerns with partisan gerrymandering, but argued for a national solution. Some have suggested that surrendering their power to draw a map while Republicans in other states keep control over the processes there would amount to unilateral disarmament.
Democrats said they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately weigh in and decide how far is too far when a political party is crafting a map in pursuit of political advantage.
Rep.-elect David Trone, a Democrat who won the 6th district seat Tuesday, said he attended a Supreme Court oral argument in March on the Maryland case. “I was disappointed that they kicked the can back down to the level below. I would like to have seen them come back with a ruling,” Trone said.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin said: “We’d all welcome the Supreme Court defining this.”
The GOP plaintiffs: The decision was a victory for seven Republican voters in the district who brought the case.
“A fantastic step in the right direction," said Jerry DeWolf , chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee.
DeWolf says the interests of rural voters in Maryland’s western counties can get lost because “Montgomery County millionaires” put so much money into campaigns.
"We just cannot compete," he said.
Watchdog groups: To government reform groups, the meandering 6th district is an example of how one state party — in this case, Democrats — used redistricting to its advantage by reconfiguring a district once dominated by Republicans.
After Wednesday’s decision, Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director for Common Cause, said: “The court clearly sided with voters today by declaring that an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander in Maryland squashed political participation and speech. Gerrymandering is an abuse of power no matter who does it, and both Democrats and Republicans use it for their political gain.”
The governor: Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has called for a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
“With this unanimous ruling, the federal court is confirming what we in Maryland have known for a long time — that we have the most gerrymandered districts in the country, they were drawn this way for partisan reasons, and they violate Marylanders’ constitutional rights,” the governor said.