It is crystal clear that, as one of the bluest states in the country, Maryland could be the nation’s most hypocritical state in dealing with the congressional redistricting!
Last month, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a motion to intervene to protect Maryland’s Democratic-gerrymandered congressional map in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Their attorney is Democratic election law lawyer Marc E. Elias of the Elias Law Group. Ironically, he has targeted Republican-gerrymandered maps, including those in Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.
What stunning hypocrisy!
This redistricting lawsuit originated from Fair Maps Maryland, the nonpartisan organization dedicated to abolishing partisan gerrymandering in Maryland, for eight plaintiffs who are Republican voters from all eight of the state’s congressional districts. Fair Maps Maryland campaigned to pass the governor-supported Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission’s congressional map, which got an “A” rating for fairness from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
Confused? Let me explain.
On the first day of the 2021 Special Session of the Maryland General Assembly on Dec. 6, the 18 Democratic delegates on the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee voted along party lines to send to the House the map drawn by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee (LRAC), which the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave an ‘F’ rating for fairness. On the Senate side, the decennial Senate Standing Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting voted 10-4 on straight party lines. At the State House, Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan, drawn by the citizens commission, did not get a vote in either committee during the special session.
Promises in 2018
The Democrats serving on these committees might forget their own campaign promise on redistricting and gerrymandering on the 2018 Maryland League of Women Voters Guide. Some showed strong support for an independent commission to draw district lines back then, yet they wound up supporting a map drawn by their partisan leaders. Check your legislators’ promises in the Guide. The Democrats’ hypocrisy is apparent.
On Capitol Hill, seven House Democrats from Maryland are silent after the Maryland General Assembly overrode Hogan’s veto of the new congressional map on Dec. 9. Oddly, they all co-sponsored H.R.1, the For the People Act of 2021, which includes as a central plank an end to partisan gerrymandering and a national move to independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
As lead sponsor of H.R. 1, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD-3rd, claims to be an anti-gerrymanderer since he stated that the bill would “reform the way we draw the maps for congressional districts to make them fairer.”
Before the General Assembly, the Rep. Sarbanes office released this neutral statement: “The Maryland General Assembly has the important task of choosing a new set of maps for Congressional districts in the state. In that process, the Legislature should adhere to principles that respect the voters and ensure fair representation in Congress.”
Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-MD-7th, told a WBAL radio host two months ago that he would not support an 8-0 outcome. He said, “If it were the other way around, and Democrats were one-third of the population, and they put forth maps or started moving toward an 8-0 representation, we’d be jumping up and down in arms.” Nevertheless, before the General Assembly, Mfume on Dec. 2 refused to comment further on the LRAC proposal and noted that it was in the legislators’ hands.
“This has been the process since we started our government,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD-2nd, said in the Washington Post on Sep. 21, 2014. “And it’s not that I think that it’s a great process, but when you have an independent group, they become political, too. Who are they representing? Who appoints them?”
The Supreme Court
After the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 27, 2019, federal judges had no power to stop partisan gerrymandering. Rep. David Trone, D-MD-6th, told WTOP radio, “The court missed a real opportunity to attack what’s the biggest problem across the country that’s leading to the division of the U.S. [into] hard left and hard right, and stops folks from getting things done.” He paused, “district lines should be drawn so that voters are not being picked by the politicians.”
In his statement on Supreme Court’s gerrymandering case, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD-8th, released a statement on June 27, 2019: “The House has voted to abolish gerrymandering in U.S. House races by compelling the use of independent and nonpartisan expert redistricting panels in every state. This is going to be the road forward.”
Yet Raskin told Slate on Dec. 10, “we have not only a political right, but I would argue an ethical duty, to do whatever we can to fight fire with fire and try to defend democratic values and democratic process in America.”
Rep. Anthony G. Brown, D-MD-4th, now running for Maryland attorney general, is quiet on the gerrymandering issue. When he was lieutenant governor, his campaign manager told the Baltimore Sun on Sep. 19, 2014, that he described redistricting as “a national challenge that requires a comprehensive 50-state solution.” He said Brown would support congressional action to revise redistricting standards across the country.
No surprise that Maryland’s No. 1 hypocrite could be Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD-5th.
“I’m particularly interested in redistricting reform,” Hoyer, the House majority leader, told CQ Roll Call on Jan. 13, 2020. “I’m very committed to trying to get legislation through that will require a fair redistricting process in every state.”
“Now let me make it clear, I am a serial gerrymanderer,” Hoyer told The Washington Post on Mar. 21, 2017. “As long as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, Texas, other states that I could name, pursue partisan redistricting, there’s no reason to expect that those of us who are in Democratic states won’t do so as well. But what we ought to have is a national mandate that redistricting is to be done in a fair, balanced way through nonpartisan commissions.”
They all support independent commissions in the states to draw congressional maps and an end to gerrymandering. But not in their own districts in their own state, if other states aren’t required to do the same.
Oddly, if the latest federal voting rights bill, “The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act,” would have passed the Senate this month, it would have thrown out Maryland’s new congressional map. The Democratic representatives all supported that bill too.