Redistricting expert testifies new congressional map will likely result in 7-to-1 partisan split

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The map of Maryland’s congressional district passed by the Democratic majority in the General Assembly in December has been challenged in court. Screenshot.

Maryland’s new congressional map will likely produce the same 7-1 partisan split as the previous map, a state expert said during a lawsuit for a pair of challenges to the new map Thursday.

Allan Jay Lichtman, a history professor at American University and an expert on redistricting, said while Maryland’s reconfigured 1st congressional district is more competitive for Democrats, it will likely result in a Republican victory in 2022.

Lichtman noted that the midterm election years have always been difficult for candidates from the president’s party, and he expects this year to be difficult for Democratic candidates for Congress.

In the previous Congressional Map of Maryland, which was enacted in 2011, Maryland’s 1st District included portions of northern Harford, Baltimore, and Carroll counties along with the eastern seaboard to create a heavily Republican district. The only Republican in Congress from Maryland, US Representative Andrew P. Harris, easily won re-election there.

In the map the General Assembly adopted in a special December session, however, the 1st Congressional District crosses the Chesapeake Bay to include parts of central Anne Arundel County and has its northern terminus in the southeast of Harford County. That new district would have swung narrowly for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, Lichtman said, but he said that wouldn’t be enough to guarantee a victory for Democrats in 2022.

The Republicans of the coast is regularly exceeded expectations with the share of votes they win, said Lichtman arguing that the district probably topple into Republican in the upcoming elections.

Lichtman also said that because the district was drawn to be more competitive for Democrats in 2022, some degree of politics is inevitable when a legislature is tasked with redistricting. He also said there was “no indication” that the state-enacted card was a gerrymander.

“You have to find a balance in democratic government between political values ​​and other considerations,” he said.

Deputy Attorney General Andrea Trente made similar arguments at the hearings leading up to the trial, arguing that, by entrusting the “political branches” of government with redistricting, the framers of Maryland’s Constitution should redistricting be a partisan process.

Former Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis said mapmakers have to consider a lot of factors when creating new congressional districts, including unnecessarily undermining existing representation.

The trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court involves a pair of challenges to Maryland’s new congressional districts. A challenge, Szeliga vs. Lamone, is presented by Republican voters from Maryland’s eight congressional districts – including delegates Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford counties) and Del. Christopher T. Adams (R-Lower Shore) – and charges that the new map violates the state constitution by diluting Republican votes.

Another challenge, carried by Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) and Judicial Watch, a national conservative group, also charge that the map violates the state’s constitutional requirement that “each legislative district be compact in shape and substantially equal in population.” . . Due consideration shall be given to natural boundaries and political subdivisions. »

This provision has historically been interpreted by the Maryland Court of Appeals as applying to state legislative districts and not congressional districts.

Strider Dickson, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the Szeliga case, asked Willis about the dwindling number of Republicans in Maryland’s congressional delegation. Willis was the chairman of a redistricting commission for then-Governor Parris N. Glendening (D) in 2001. Dickson noted that Maryland’s 8th congressional district, then largely centered in Montgomery County, was represented by a Republican before being redrawn for the 2002 election. That year, challenger Chris Van Hollen (D) ousted US Representative Connie Morella (R).

The map in place between the 1992 and 2000 elections resulted in a 4-4 partisan split in Maryland’s congressional delegation as recently as the 2000 election, but Willis said relying solely on affiliation with a party is an inaccurate way to decipher the partisan distribution of a map. He said Morella was a “pro-Labour, progressive Republican”, explaining her victories.

The map drawn for 2002 produced a reliable 6-2 split, but in 2011 the 6th District was redrawn to favor the Democrats and the 1st District was made more solidly Republican, leading to the current 7-1 split.

Plaintiffs in both lawsuits want Congress’s new map blocked, and plaintiffs in the Judicial Watch case want the court to substitute one drawn by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a panel convened by Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R). This panel included three Republicans, three Democrats and three unaffiliated voters. Hogan named the panel’s three co-chairs, who then selected the other six commission members.

Hogan ordered the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission to start from scratch and disregard where incumbents live when developing the maps. His terms for the commission drew questions from Democratic lawmakers in the special session, and on Thursday Lichtman also questioned the commission’s independence since it was convened by a single Republican lawmaker.

Hogan said last year he was taking a hands-off approach to the commission and would have “no involvement” with the cards.

Lichtman also criticized the panel’s partisan makeup and said there was “extraordinary underrepresentation” of Democrats on the committee. He noted that Democrats make up well over half of registered voters in Maryland, but only three were included on the panel.

The map passed by lawmakers was drawn by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee, which was convened by Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) . Jones and Ferguson were members of that panel, along with two other Democratic legislative leaders and two Republican legislative leaders. The Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission was chaired by Karl Aro, former head of the nonpartisan Legislative Services Department.

Former governors brief file in support of map challenges

A group of former governors filed a brief supporting plaintiffs in the Szeliga v. Lamone.

The governors include former governor of North Carolina Michael F. Easley (D), former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the former Massachusetts governor William Weld (R) and former governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman (R).

In the brief, the governors say recent successful challenges to Congress’ plans in state courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania show that “extreme partisan gerrymandering” violates the Constitution of Maryland. Courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania found partisan gerrymandering violated their states’ constitution requirements for “free” elections, the governors wrote, noting that Maryland’s constitution requires elections to be “free and frequent”.

“As the Supreme Courts of North Carolina and Pennsylvania recently recognized in challenges based on constitutional provisions similar to those implicated here, extreme partisan gerrymandering violates the principles of free elections and equal protection, as well as freedoms of expression and association,” their brief reads. .

The former governors also submitted a brief challenge to the state’s legislative map to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Lichtman testified Thursday that he does not believe the newly enacted Congressional map constitutes an “extreme partisan gerrymander,” noting that the map is generally more compact than the previous Congressional map.

The congressional redistricting trial is scheduled to end on Friday, and presiding senior judge Lynne Battaglia said on Thursday she would rule next week. Battaglia said the parties would then have five days to appeal to the Court of Appeal and said she expects the High Court to hear the case in April.

The Court of Appeals recently rescheduled Maryland’s primary election from June 28 to July 19.

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