U.S. Supreme Court won't hear challenge to Md. redistricting map

June 25, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • 2011 Maryland Congressional Redistricting Plan
By Chad Trovinger

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld Maryland’s 2012 congressional map, but it could face an up or down vote in November if opponents get enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot.

The Supreme Court won’t hear a complaint against Maryland’s congressional redistricting map by voters unhappy with the state’s new maps.

The high court affirmed Maryland judges’ decision to throw out the lawsuit. Some voters had complained that the new maps passed by the state legislature last year discriminated against blacks by failing to create a third majority-black congressional district in the state.

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, was leading an effort to get the 75,000 petition signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot. In a letter to the editor that appeared in Sunday’s edition of The Herald-Mail, Parrott urged Marylanders to go to to sign a petition supporting a referendum.

In the letter, Parrott said the redistricting plan targeted Republican 6th District Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican, for defeat, by making “our district practically unwinnable for a common-sense conservative who would represent Washington County’s values.” Those values cannot be represented by inclusion of “the super-urban, minority populations of Montgomery County” in the 6th District, he wrote.

Parrott’s letter noted what he said were other examples of gerrymandering in the congressional map, including a federal judge’s comments that District 3 “is more reminiscent of a broken wing pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”

About 29,000 signatures had been collected by the end of May, Parrott said when reached Monday night. He estimated that another 35,000 signatures were still needed by this weekend to get the referendum certified by the state board of elections.

“We’re still in the process right now of getting those signatures,” he said. “We don’t have them in hand right now, and we have until Saturday to get (them).”

In March, Parrott said if voters approve a referendum and reject the congressional map, it would mean the legislature would have to approve a new map, or a court could decide new boundaries for 2014.

The redistricting map was challenged by Republicans and minorities, said Del. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington.

“The African-American and Hispanic minorities make quite a compelling argument” that the map split up what could have been “majority minority” districts, Serafini said.

The lower court judges also said the lawsuit didn’t meet the burden of proof that the map is a partisan gerrymander. In addition, the panel rejected arguments that a recent law that counts prisoners in the communities where they are from instead of the prisons where they are confined is unconstitutional.

Formerly, for census purposes, prisoners were counted as living in the districts in which they were incarcerated. Washington County has three state prisons with approximately 6,200 inmates, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Every 10 years, following the U.S. Census, states redraw congressional boundaries to reflect shifts, gains and losses in population in congressional districts.

In the 2012 map, the 6th District retains Garrett and Allegany counties, but loses portions of Carroll and Frederick counties, while extending southeast into Montgomery County.
Bartlett’s office referred the matter to his campaign committee, which had not responded by Monday afternoon.

Bartlett is running for re-election against Democratic nominee John Delaney.

“Regrettably, the referendum effort does nothing to fix the problem. We need real reform,” Delaney Campaign Manager Justin Schall wrote in an email response to a question from The Herald-Mail. “One solution put forward by John is to have redistricting conducted by nonpartisan independent boards, with plenty of public input.”

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