Judge Tosses Maryland’s Highly Gerrymandered Congressional Map

A Maryland judge called it an “extreme gerrymander” and ordered that state legislators create a new map before Friday’s end.

Lynne A. Battaglia ruled that eight of the eight congressional districts created by the Democrat-controlled State Legislature lacked compactness, and displayed disregard for existing political boundaries like cities and counties. Battaglia said that the map “subordinates Constitutional criteria to political considerations”, and this violates Maryland Constitutions equal protection clauses and free elections clauses. This is the first time that a Maryland judge has rejected a redistricting chart because it was too politically biased. The Washington PostGiven the state’s history, this is a significant statement.

The congressional map used in Maryland for the past 10 years was one of the most highly gerrymandered in the country—even though Republican gerrymanders in places like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin attracted more attention to the problem of politically motivated mapmaking. That’s part of the reason why Maryland’s congressional delegation has been split 7–1 in favor of Democrats for the past decade.

The Democrats of Annapolis created an even more gerrymandered electoral map this time, which would have allowed them to gain an edge. all eighta Maryland’s Baltimore/Washington corridor to ensure that almost all the state’s congressional districts are made up of this part. The map got a grade “F.”Princeton Gerrymandering Project grades congressional maps based on political fairness and geographic compactness.

Banner 3

In the ruling, Battaglia pointed to how the Maryland map scored poorly in several metrics used to access the compactness of political districts. These mathematical formulas are imperfect ways of assessing congressional districts—not every district ought to be a perfect circle, of course. As I explained in 2018’s feature, however, there are some advantages. Reason, This type of statistical analysis can be used by judges and lawmakers to help them decide how much gerrymandering they should allow.

That is what Battaglia has ruled. She points to the fact that Maryland’s districts scored worse than all but two other states on the Polsby-Popper scale—a metric that measures the ratio of a district’s area against a theoretical circle with the same circumference as the district’s perimeter. Maryland scored equally low under the Reock method. This involves drawing the smallest circle possible that covers all points in a district and then comparing its area to Maryland’s.

Comparing Maryland’s map to those of other former and current congressional maps shows that the score given Maryland’s maps is “very low relative to any drawn within the past fifty years in America,” Battaglia wrote in Friday’s ruling.

Maryland governor. Larry Hogan, a Republican, called Friday’s ruling “a monumental victory for every Marylander who cares about protecting our democracy, bringing fairness to our elections, and putting the people back in charge.”

Hogan encouraged the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw a map that Marylanders would adopt to address Battaglia’s decision. This group included three Republicans and three Democrats as well as three residents who were not affiliated with the political parties.

Although the commission failed to realize its goals, the final map is in no way inferior to the one that was approved by the state legislatures and rejected by the Battaglia. These districts are based on geographic logic. The areas of Maryland that have more Republicans, such as the Eastern Shore or the Western Panhandle, were placed in districts which reflect local politics. Princeton Gerrymandering Project awarded the map an “A” rating.

Walter Olson is a member the Citizens’ Commission and senior fellow at Cato Institute. He tells us that he rejected the proposal and adopted a map “even more blatantly politically” than the old map. Reason. 

In other states, courts are also taking this risk. Republican-drawn map designs have been banned by North Carolina and Pennsylvania state courts.

Both parties want to control the outcome of the congressional election. They are trying to do this by using redistricting as a way to allow politicians to choose their voters, rather than vice versa. However, Maryland’s heavily gerrymandered maps have shown how redistricting reform support is sometimes manipulated for political purposes.

As I wrote in December, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D–Md.) Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has been one the most vocal voices calling out Republican efforts at gerrymandering. He’s claimed on Twitter that “gerrymandering empowers political minorities to redistrict political majorities into near-oblivion,” issued an official statement claiming that “Republican state legislators…have perfected the art of redistricting for the goal of destroying the political opposition,” and was one of several members of Congress to submit an AmicusA brief was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to “endpartisan gerrymandering”, when the Court examined Wisconsin’s GOP drafted gerrymander.

However, Raskin’s Maryland district is the one to watch. It is extremely gerrymanderedThe new map would have been even worse if it had not survived Battaglia’s review. Raskin has refused to comment on the map-drawing process in his home state—a place where his supposedly reform-minded principles would likely have more influence, if he chose to exert it, than would his performative outrage on Twitter or in front of the Supreme Court.

The Maryland citizens’ commission’s maps are a great example of how Maryland can reform redistricting. While it is impossible to completely remove politics from this process, any improvement over allowing a few legislators of one party to control mapmaking will be a good thing.

The defeat of Maryland’s highly partisan congressional map is a terrific real-world example of how greater use of statistical analyses and greater involvement of the general public can defeat the incumbency-protection scheme that is gerrymandering—or at least lessen the damage it does.