Federal judges on Wednesday ordered Maryland officials to redraw the state’s map of congressional districts, ruling that the map violates the rights of Republican voters by minimizing their political power.
A three-judge panel of U.S. District Court said the 2011 map must be redrawn before the 2020 elections.
It was the latest federal court ruling to find a state’s political gerrymandering so extreme that it violates the Constitution.
In this case, several Republican voters sued over the boundaries of the 6th Congressional District.
The judges said that Maryland Democrats went too far when they carved 66,000 Republican voters out of the district and added 24,000 Democratic voters.
The judges said the Democrats’ slicing and dicing of the 6th District was “the single greatest alteration of voter makeup in any district in the nation following the 2010 census.”
Before the change, the district had been considered “solid Republican,” and the state had at least two GOP representatives. After the 2011 map was adopted, it became “likely Democratic,” and the state has had only one GOP representative.
The western Maryland district again elected a Democrat in Tuesday’s elections.
“The state specifically intended to diminish the value of those targeted citizens’ votes by removing a substantial number of them from the Sixth District and replacing them with Democratic voters for the purpose of denying, as a practical matter, the targeted voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice,” Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote for the court.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who won re-election Tuesday, applauded the ruling Wednesday.
“We remain steadfastly committed to moving forward in an open and transparent manner that is free of the partisan influence that has dominated the redistricting process in Maryland for far too long. It’s past time for Marylanders to choose their representatives instead of politicians choosing their constituents, and today’s ruling is a major step in that direction,” Mr. Hogan said in a press release.
Redistricting maps are drawn by the governor and approved by the state’s General Assembly, which currently is controlled by Democrats.
The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the case before deciding in June to refer it back to the lower court for a decision, effectively allowing the 2011 map to remain in place for Tuesday’s congressional elections.
The Supreme Court could take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering again this term, in a case from North Carolina. Republicans in North Carolina have urged the justices to rule that courts should stay out of disputes about the political process.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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