By Nickolai Sukharev
A federal court struck down a portion of Maryland’s congressional map, forcing the state to redraw one of its eight districts.
Issued by a three-judge district court panel a day after the Nov. 6 election, the order gives state officials until March 9, 2019, to submit a new redistricting plan for the 6th Congressional District. If the deadline is not met, a special commission appointed by the court will redraw the district.
The order follows a case filed in 2016 by O. John Bennesik, the plaintiff, alleging that the Maryland State Board of Elections intentionally aimed to reduce the influence of Republican voters in the district during the 2011 redistricting process.
Soon to be represented by David Trone (D), who will succeed incumbent Rep. John Delaney (D), the district includes Potomac, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Poolesville, along with portions of Frederick County and the entirety of Washington, Allegany, and Garrett counties.
The district was drawn in 2011 as part of the reapportionment process following the 2010 US Census. Although Maryland did not gain or lose seats, the Maryland General Assembly redrew the 3rd, 6th and 8th Congressional Districts, all three of which include portions of Montgomery County.
The 8th District includes Bethesda, Rockville, Silver Spring and Damascus, along with parts of Frederick and Carroll counties, while the 3rd District includes Olney, Burtonsville, and portions of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
Under the previous congressional map, the 8th district included the largest portion of the county, with the remainder divided by the 4th and 6th districts.
“I think gerrymandering is an assault on democratic rights of people and so I cheer any effort to reverse it,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8).
Raskin added that, prior to the 2011 redistricting map, the district was less competitive than in its present form.
Republican Roscoe Bartlett represented the district from 1992-2012, winning with margins ranging from about 19,000-120,000 votes in each election.
Delaney, who was first elected in 2012, unseated Bartlett by 64,608 votes. In 2014, Delany defeated Republican Dan Bongino by 2,774 votes, before defeating Republican Amie Hoeber by 52,689 votes.
Despite voting in favor of the 2011 redistricting map while in the State Senate, Raskin said he supports nonpartisan redistricting commissions as a “national remedy” to the issue.
Raskin, along with, Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), is a cosponsor of the Fair Representation Act, which aims to implement multi-member districts drawn by independent redistricting commissions, and elected through ranked choice voting. The multi-member districts would apply to states apportioned with six or more seats in the House and would elect three to five representatives each, depending on the size of the state.
Incoming County Executive Marc Elrich (D), who opposed the 2011 redistricting map with a group of county officials, said he was “perfectly fine with drawing maps the right way.”
Robin Ficker, who ran in the district’s 2016 Republican Congressional primary election, said the congressional map was a case of “Mary-mandering.”
“The elected officials in [the] county pulled a dirty trick on the voters because they split Montgomery County into these three ‘Mary-mandered’ districts,” Ficker said. “I really don’t see that they’ve suffered the consequences in the political realm, and apparently, they’re going to suffer the consequences in the judicial realm.”
“Get any group of 12-year-olds from Montgomery County, and they could draw a fairer map than those politicians did.”