Redistricting reform is back in the news, but did it ever leave? On November 7, 2018, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Benisek v. Lamone ruled that Maryland’s 2011 congressional redistricting plan for the 6th Congressional District violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a result, the State of Maryland was ordered to redraw the boundaries of the 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Western Maryland and portions of Montgomery County. The order gave Maryland officials until March 7, 2019 to submit new district boundaries using the application of geographic contiguity, compactness, regard for natural boundaries and boundaries of political subdivisions, regard for geographic and other communities of interest.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) has appealed the ruling, which puts the court order in limbo. In response, Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) issued an Executive Order creating the Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering to redraw boundaries. It is unclear when and who will redraw the boundaries, which depends on a variety of factors, including Attorney General Frosh’s appeal.
The Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) has a long-standing position that an independent entity should be created to redraw Maryland’s Congressional and legislative districts following each decennial census. However, the GBC has suggested changing Maryland’s approach to redistricting in a phased-in manner, with Congressional redistricting first and legislative boundaries at a later time.
Click here to read my recent commentary, published in The Daily Record on November 15, 2018, on this important issue.