The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear a Maryland gerrymandering claim at the same time as a similar challenge from Wisconsin.
The court issued an order Wednesday denying the motion of Republican plaintiffs to have their case before the court at the same time as Democratic plaintiffs from Wisconsin.
In U.S. District Court, the plaintiffs — who include three Republican voters from Frederick County — argued that the redrawn districts amount to an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment right to free speech.
The case arrived at the Supreme Court after two U.S. District Court judges denied 6th District voters’ request for a preliminary injunction to require a new map before the 2018 election. The judges also decided to place a hold on the case until the Supreme Court considered the Wisconsin case.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the Maryland plaintiffs asked the justices to set oral arguments in both state cases in November. Attorneys for the state of Maryland, who are defending the congressional district map, argued against the speedy hearing at the country’s top court.
The Maryland and Wisconsin cases are similar on their face, but there are some important differences. The Maryland case challenges the redrawing of a single federal district, the 6th, to favor Democrats, while the Wisconsin case is based on the statewide redrawing of the Wisconsin State Assembly districts to favor Republicans.
The two cases also allege different violations of voters’ rights under the First Amendment.
The plaintiffs’ attorney had argued that hearing both cases at the same time would show the justices that the issue of gerrymandering is not exclusive to one political party.
In the last redistricting, which took effect in 2012, Frederick County was split as part of a shift that made the 6th District more Democratic.
The Democratic-oriented city of Frederick is part of the reworked 6th District, which also picked up part of heavily Democratic Montgomery County. Other parts of Frederick County moved to the 8th District.
The Frederick County residents who joined the U.S. District Court complaint are registered Republican voters who once lived in the 6th District but are now in the 8th District.
They argue that voters in the 6th District would have been able to elect a Republican representative in 2012 and 2014, but did not because of the change in the district’s boundaries. Republican Roscoe Bartlett won the district in the previous 10 congressional elections but was defeated in 2012 by Democrat John Delaney, who is now in his third term.