ICYMI: Maryland backs citizen mapping as U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear cases

Don Henry| January 7th, 2019

As the Supreme Court becomes more conservative, some fear that key weapons in the fight for fairer districts could be struck down.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear gerrymandering cases in Maryland and North Carolina could be a bad sign for advocates of fairer voting districts.

While state courts, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, have been instrumental in throwing out partisan gerrymanders, the nation's highest court has never clearly addressed the issue of partisan voting districts.

Now, with Brett Kavanaugh replacing Anthony Kennedy, some scholars of gerrymandering think the Court’s stance seems poised to change. Kavanaugh is seen as more is likely to align with  other conservatives on the Court, who have previously opined that gerrymandering is a political matter that should not find remedy in the courts.

Further, the re-aligned Court could get a chance to invalidate all redistricting commissions — seen as key tools in the fight against partisan dominance of the process. Bloomberg News reports that, with Kavanaugh on the Court,  justices could well reverse a 2015 precedent in an Arizona case and deem such commissions unconstitutional.

Just such a commission, working on the 6th Congressional District in Maryland, would be eliminated if the Court rules that only state legislatures can be involved in drawing the districts.

Still, the commission there is pushing ahead with plans to get even more public input, using a method familiar to fans of Draw The Lines PA: citizen mapping. 

The Maryland Department of Planning is working on a website that would permit Maryland residents to submit their own maps of the district.   Of course, at Draw the Lines we have one of those tools as well.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, is locked in conflict with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan over a federal court order requiring the 6th Congresstional District to be redrawn in a less partisan manner. Rather than enforce that ruling, Frosh appealed to the Supreme Court in November. Hogan has maintained that more public input — not less — is the key to producing fair voting districts.

Note in the Maryland situation it's the Democrats who are dragging their heels on public input into the process.  It can't be said often enough: When it comes to partisan gerrymandering, neither major party's hands are clean.