WASHINGTON — It’s time to “terminate” gerrymandering, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Schwarzenegger, famous for his role in the 1984 film “The Terminator,” joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at a rally for fair election maps outside the high court as its justices listened to oral arguments in three partisan gerrymandering cases affecting North Carolina and Maryland. The rally was hosted by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, who are parties to the North Carolina cases that were heard jointly.
“Free and fair elections are at the very foundation of democracy and the most basic promise that those in power can pledge to our citizens, and, unfortunately, those in power in Maryland have given us the distinction of having the most gerrymandered districts in America,” Hogan said.
Tuesday marked the second time an appeal on the validity of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District reached the Supreme Court.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) filed the appeal in 2018, after a lower federal court ruled that the state’s 6th Congressional District was unconstitutional and its boundaries had to be redrawn with respect to traditional redistricting criteria before the 2020 election. Maryland asked the court Tuesday whether it was right for the state to use a new map for, at most, one election.
In opposition to his attorney general, Hogan has instead pushed for a legislative overhaul of Maryland’s redistricting process and appointed a nine-member Emergency Commission on Sixth District Gerrymandering to correct the map in time for the 2020 election.
Hogan found an ally in Schwarzenegger, who held office while California piloted its own nonpartisan redistricting commission. The men also wrote an amicus brief to the court together in support of Maryland’s seven Republican plaintiffs — three of whom are from Frederick County — earlier this month.
“I have to tell you that not in my wildest dreams did I think about 50 years ago, when I came to this great country as an immigrant, that one day I would be standing in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and fight gerrymandering,” Schwarzenegger said at the rally. “Not in my wildest dreams did I think about that.”
He described the partisan manipulation of election boundaries across the country as a “national disgrace” and a “national scandal.”
“We must terminate gerrymandering, because that scam has been going on for too long,” Schwarzenegger said. “For 200 years now, the politicians have been drawing the district lines, and it is not one party or the other, it’s both.”
Protesters held cutouts of some of the country’s worst gerrymandered districts at the rally. Among them was Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches as a thin line along Montgomery County’s border before it blooms into two blobs in Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County.
Kathy Chiron, president of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, also held a purple and yellow “End Gerrymandering Now” sign. It was her first time at a rally outside the Supreme Court, but it was important to stand up in defense of individuals’ voting rights, even though she has none at the federal level as a D.C. resident.
“In a way, it’s sad this has gotten as far as the Supreme Court. What does that say?” Chiron said. “But it also says we’re going to fight. You don’t roll over on an issue as important as voting and voting rights.”
Many are looking to the Supreme Court to make a definitive decision on partisan gerrymandering this year.
Walter Olson, who lives in New Market and is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, said he saw three possible outcomes to Maryland’s case:
- The Maryland General Assembly would fundamentally change its mind on redistricting and implement a nonpartisan process. Olson said this was the least likely of the three outcomes.
- The Supreme Court would again not provide a definitive ruling and prolong the litigation.
- The justices would uphold the lower court’s decision that Maryland’s map must be redrawn ahead of the 2020 election.
If the latter occurs, the ruling would have broad and long-lasting implications nationwide, said Olson, a Republican selected by Hogan to co-chair the emergency commission.
“They’re in some sense [saying] that courts can start striking down districts for partisan gerrymandering,” Olson said.
The court’s decision is expected later this year. Until then, Maryland will continue to address the topic locally.
“We need to just take the power away from the politicians and give it to the people, because representatives should not be picking their citizens, the citizens should be picking their representatives,” Hogan said.