Representatives from Maryland’s congressional delegation said they are working on ending gerrymandering in the state after a three-judge panel decided to allow a lawsuit against the state’s congressional district boundaries to go forward.
The case Shapiro v. McManus alleges that Maryland’s sixth congressional district violates the rights of Republicans to freely associate after the state legislature redrew the congressional districts in 2011.
After the two-one vote by a panel of federal judges on Aug. 24 in Baltimore, the case will go to trial and could potentially end up being heard by the United States Supreme Court.
Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6) formerly held the Sixth district seat from 1993 to 2013 until Democratic challenger Rep. John Delaney (MD-6) defeated him in 2012. The suit alleges that Democratic lawmakers purposely redrew the sixth district, among Maryland’s other Democratic districts, to make it more favorable to Democratic candidates.
When asked about gerrymandering, the process in which partisan legislators redraw congressional district to their party’s favor, Delaney said in a statement, “Since I first ran for office in 2012 I have supported redistricting reform and in Congress I have introduced legislation that would create a path for the nationwide use of independent commissions for redistricting.”
When asked to answer to directly respond to the Shapiro v. McManus federal suit that alleges his district violates the First Amendment rights of Republicans, Delaney’s Communications Director Will McDonald said Delaney is not responsible for his district’s boundaries.
“Congressman Delaney didn’t draw the lines in the Sixth District,” McDonald said. “John’s not focused on this lawsuit, he’s focused on representing every single Marylander in the Sixth District, promoting job creation, supporting veterans and strengthening our national security and finding bipartisan solutions.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8), declined to comment specifically on the federal case, instead saying he is the lead sponsor on Redistricting Reform Act, which has no Republican co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.
“Marylanders – and all Americans – deserve a redistricting process that is fair and democratic,” Van Hollen said. “ That’s why I’m a lead supporter of the Redistricting Reform Act to end political gerrymandering of districts nationwide.”
Michael Kimberly, the attorney for Steve Shapiro, an American University law student that has filed suit, said that Maryland representatives are unable to solve gerrymandering because it goes against their own interest.
“It’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Kimberly said. “It just makes sense that the very people who stand to gain from perennial gerrymandering are not going to solve the problem.”
Similar to Van Hollen, Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-3), said he believes Congress is best suited to undue gerrymandering.
“I remain committed to creating national, independent and objective standards for drawing Congressional district,” Sarbanes said. “To that end, I have worked with my colleagues in Congress to co-sponsor and advance the Redistricting Reform Act of 2015, a comprehensive proposal that would establish independent state redistricting commissions on a nationwide scale. Rather than piecemeal reform on a state-by-state basis, implementing federal redistricting reform will create a more fair and impartial playing field for improving the way Congressional districts are drawn.”
Kimberly said the decision by the panel of judges is a key victory for his client’s case. In December of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal panel of judges could hear Shapiro’s case after a federal court dismissed the case.
Now Shapiro’s case goes to trial and if successful it could be heard by the Supreme Court.
“I expect the Supreme Court to weigh in again,” Kimberly said.