New map of 6th District (copy)

This map submitted by a national redistricting enthusiast was selected by the governor’s Emergency Commission on Sixth District Gerrymandering as the way to redraw Maryland’s 6th and 8th congressional districts ahead of the 2020 election.

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s first emergency redistricting commission met in Annapolis for the last time on Friday. And despite support from its members to continue a nonpartisan redistricting process moving forward, it remains unlikely to become the state’s new model.

With only a handful of days left in the General Assembly session, the state Senate has taken no substantial steps to advance Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) proposed redistricting legislation, and the House committee assigned the bills has voted against them.

Maryland will instead return to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to defend the use of its current congressional map in the 2020 presidential election. Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) is challenging a lower court’s order to redraw the 6th District for, at most, one election, as part of an ongoing lawsuit on whether the state’s Democratic majority used partisan gerrymandering to dilute Republican votes during its last statewide redistricting in 2011.

“Generally the tone has been people are really fed up with gerrymandering and they are looking for something better in the future,” said Ashley Oleson, an unaffiliated voter appointed by Hogan to serve on the Emergency Commission for 6th District Gerrymandering.

Oleson is an administrator for the League of Women Voters of Maryland, whose national organization will host a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in support of ending gerrymandering as the court hears Rucho v. Common Cause, consolidated with Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina, as well as Maryland’s case Lamone v. Benisek.

Walter Olson, a Republican selected by Hogan to co-chair the emergency commission, plans to attend the rally as he did in 2018 when the state’s case was first heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s a show of support and of interest,” Olson said. “... My morale is always improved whenever I see people of all different walks of life and backgrounds coming to see this fixed.”

It is far from certain, however, that the court’s justices will finally pass down a ruling that would end partisan gerrymandering nationwide.

Last time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on procedural grounds only that Maryland’s lower court had not erred in denying a preliminary injunction to stop the state from using the map in 2018.

The case returned to the U.S. District Court in Maryland, and a three-judge panel ruled in November 2018 that the 6th District had to be redrawn to respect “traditional criteria for redistricting.”

The judges gave Maryland until March 7 to redraw its 6th District, otherwise the court would assign a committee to draw the map. Hogan formed the Emergency Commission on 6th District Gerrymandering to fulfill the order.

The emergency commission held community listening sessions in western Maryland and a national map submission process to redraw the 6th District.

In March, the commission unanimously agreed on a new map that would return Frederick County completely to the 6th District along with western Maryland and a portion of Carroll and Montgomery counties. The remainder of the area will form a new 8th District.

“This isn’t a perfect proposed plan, but I think it’s the best we can do under difficult circumstances,” said retired Judge Alexander Williams Jr. (D), who is the Democratic co-chair of the commission.

Deborah Lundahl, a Frederick County residents who is one of three Republicans selected for the nine-member commission, said the experience has reenforced her belief in the need for a balanced redistricting process in the future. After the commission’s work is done, she said she planned to remain involved.

“I haven’t hesitated in the past to speak up, and I think I’ll make an even greater effort to be at public forums in the future,” Lundahl said.

The map faces an uncertain future in the legislature, which will receive the proposed map as emergency legislation before it is scheduled to adjourn on April 8. It is unclear if the legislature will be able to find consensus on the map in that short of time.

“If [Hogan] feels a need to call an emergency session, I would support that,” Lundahl said after the meeting on Friday.

Maryland will evaluate all its congressional boundaries following the decennial U.S. census in 2020.

“I’m just really hopeful that moving forward we will see a transparent process like this in the next redistricting cycle,” Oleson said.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(6) comments

DickD

I too am against ALL gerrymandering. If the Supreme Court takes this up and makes a ruling that you cannot set up districts for political reasons, it will be a great day - for the Democrats. For the Democrats because it is the Republicans that have been the worse making gerrymandering districts and once they rule one is wrong, there's about 18 more wrong too, which would surely be challenged in court.

Thank you. Maryland Republicans.

CDReid

Dick, in the first place, this proposed map was drawn by an independent individual who has ties with a left wing organization:

"The mapmaker is Stephen Wolf, who has spent the last two years writing for the Daily Kos, which is a liberal organization that aims to elect Democratic candidates, but takes a nonpartisan stance on redistricting, according to its own description."


In the second place, not all members of the Commission are Republicans:


"To avoid partisan influence, the nine-member commission is a combination of three registered Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters."

You might want to reread this, comprehensively this time:

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/politics_and_government/elections/commission-s-pick-for-new-congressional-map-comes-from-out/article_dfea5f34-c93b-5b9d-8958-859d0ce92ac4.html

DickD

And where do we disagree, CD? I am against ALL gerrymandering - what part of that do you not understand? I think it is great that the Republicans filed the lawsuit. A win for the Republicans on the Maryland gerrymandering would mean ALL gerrymandering is wrong. If wrong, all the Republican states that have gerrymandered will have to change or end up in court. To be consistent, the courts will have to rule against ALL of the gerrymandered states. Now if Maryland's gerrymandering is not ruled wrong, it would mean no change is necessary. If not necessary, no committee selected by our Republican Governor, will have it's way.I prefer for the courts to rule ALL gerrymandering WRONG.

CDReid

I'm against all gerrymandering too, Dick, in this we do agree. Although I'm not sure that a win for the Republicans on the Maryland gerrymandering would mean all gerrymandering is wrong, as you maintain. My legal expertise is lacking in that respect and I would have to consult with the FNP's in house attorney, if she decides to comment here. We'll see what the higher courts decide.

CDReid

Additionally Dick, you said here that you think the gerrymandering that O'Malley did was “more fair than what the Republicans are doing now.” And also that that gerrymandering was done by the legislature, and O'Malley couldn’t have done it without them. That gerrymandering was ruled to be illegal, hence the reason for the current redrawing of the map. So, do you think that what O’Malley did was “fair” at the time that he did it?

DickD

O'Malley was not fair. It was up to State legislatures to set the guidelines. We have a Democrat state, they did what they could to take advantage of that. It was not a fairness issue Yes, it was ruled illegal by a lower court, but all the Republican states are still doing it, we need a SCOUTUS ruling that will apply to all states. So, I thank the Republicans for giving Maryland the chance to take this to the SCOTUS.

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