Governor Will Support Plaintiffs in Benisek v. Lamone

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan once again called for nonpartisan redistricting reform in Maryland today, and vowed to file legislation to achieve this important bipartisan goal. He also announced that he will join an amicus brief being filed with the United States Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Benisek v. Lamone, a case involving Maryland’s gerrymandered 6th Congressional District.

“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of American democracy and the most basic promise that those in power can pledge to citizens,” said Governor Hogan.

The governor was joined by Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission Co-Chair Walter Olson, and the following commission members: former Baltimore City NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston, Bethesda small business owner Carol Ramirez, Common Cause Maryland board member Michael Goff, Maryland Public Policy Institute President Christopher Summers, League of Women Voters Administrator Ashley Oleson, and Delegate Jason Buckel. Also attending the press conference was Jerry DeWolf, one of the plaintiffs in Benisek v. Lamone.

“Maryland must get out in front not wait to see what, if anything, other states or regions will do with redistricting,” said Judge Alex Williams, who also co-chairs the commission. “The clear solution and the message resonating across the country is that the best way to promote democracy is for the redistricting process to be submitted to an independent, nonpartisan commission.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently took up Benisek v. Lamone, in which the plaintiffs argue that Maryland’s 6th Congressional District violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by unfairly penalizing Republican voters. Several prominent Maryland politicians have been deposed in the case, including former Governor Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Mike Busch, and Senate President Mike Miller. Governor O’Malley admitted to drawing maps with the “intent to create a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican,” and a consultant hired to create the gerrymandered map listed their priorities as “incumbent protection” and trying to create another district controlled by Democrats.

“This kind of arrogant behavior and political subterfuge is exactly why Marylanders are completely fed up with politics as usual and why they are rightfully angry at Republicans and Democrats,” said the governor.

The governor announced he will join a bipartisan amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs’ case, which will be filed in the coming weeks. Also signing onto the brief is former California Governor Gray Davis, and Governor Hogan urged other current and former governors from both parties to join them. The governor is signing the brief in his own personal capacity as Attorney General Brian Frosh is representing the defendants in the case.

Governor Hogan also announced that he will introduce the Redistricting Reform Act of 2018, which mirrors legislation he has proposed in the two previous sessions that the General Assembly has failed to bring to the floor for a simple vote. The legislation creates a nonpartisan redistricting commission with a transparent process to ensure fairness in drawing both congressional and legislative districts. He also reiterated his reasons for vetoing legislation passed during the last session that would have made any action by Maryland contingent on five other states – effectively guaranteeing that true redistricting reform would never happen. Read the governor’s veto message here.

Recent redistricting cycles have earned Maryland the dubious distinction as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. In 1994, Maryland’s legislative maps were invalidated for failing to create a majority-minority district as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. District maps were again overturned in 2002 for repeated crossings of lines between Baltimore City and Baltimore County that improperly prioritized political goals over constitutional congruence standards.

“The people of Maryland desperately want and certainly deserve balance, fairness, and bipartisanship in our state. This isn’t a fight between the right and the left; this is a fight between right and wrong,” said Governor Hogan. “We have an opportunity – right now – to take action here in Maryland. Let’s all work together to do the right thing.”

Images and video courtesy of the Governor’s Office