Annapolis, Maryland, March 2021 — Delegate Michael Malone, District 33, from Anne Arundel County, who has been fighting gerrymandering in Maryland since 2002 when he and others protested on the steps of the Maryland Court of Appeals, is continuing the fight in the Maryland legislature.
Delegate Malone has again introduced legislation calling for Maryland’s Congressional districts to be drawn so that each district would be “of adjoining territory, be compact in form, and be of substantially equal population.” Furthermore, due regard would have to be given to “natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.” Maryland’s Constitution (Article III Section 4) currently requires that state delegate and senatorial districts be drawn this way, but not it does not hold Maryland Congressional districts to the same standards.
Should Delegate Malone’s bill pass, the change to Maryland’s Constitution would be placed on the ballot, and thus the gerrymandering issue would be placed squarely in the hands of Maryland’s voters. Delegate Malone believes that “support of this Congressional language by the voters shall limit political gerrymandering in Maryland and stop the drawing of Congressional Districts that look like a dismembered spider.”
“I commend Delegate Malone for introducing this common sense legislation to prevent the unconscionable gerrymandering of Maryland’s congressional districts,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “Our administration has been fighting since day one to bring free and fair elections, the most basic tenet of our democracy, back to our state.”
If Maryland’s Constitution applied the same standards to Congressional districts as it does to local political district, Maryland’s current Congressional district lines would be unconstitutional as they are not compact, do not include adjoining areas, and do not respect natural and political boundaries. In 2002, Maryland’s highest court applied these same Maryland Constitutional standards to invalidate gerrymandered districts in 10 of Maryland’s 26 counties plus Baltimore City. (In the matter of legislative redistricting in the state, Maryland Court of Appeals 379 MD, 312 (2002)). Similarly , in 2018, Pennsylvania’s highest court relied upon the Pennsylvania constitution, not the United States Constitution, to invalidate politically motivated Gerrymandered Congressional districts. It should also be noted that in November 2020, 66% of Virginia’s voters passed redistricting reform legislation.
The current redistricting process is that, every ten years, the Governor and the General Assembly redraw the lines of Maryland’s Congressional districts ostensibly based on the changes reflected in the most recent census. The reality is that many of those lines were drawn so that areas, neighborhoods, and towns that bear little in common geographically or politically are combined to choose their representation in Washington.
Following the 2010 census, Governor O’Malley redrew the Congressional district lines and relocated approximately one and a half million voters- approximately one-fourth of the state’s population- into new Congressional districts, with the obvious purpose to maximize the Democratic Party’s chances of electing Congressional Representatives. Under the current scheme, of Maryland’s eight Congressional Representatives, four of them represent some small part of Anne Arundel County. In Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, their Democratic Representatives outnumber their Republican Representatives 7 to 1.
Past Gerrymandering has been particularly painful to Anne Arundel County. Although Anne Arundel makes up about 10% of Maryland’s population, it has not had its own Congressperson since 1992, when Tom McMillan lost his reelection bid after Anne Arundel County no longer had a district with a majority of Anne Arundel voters. Anne Arundel County is now divided up into 4 of Maryland’s 8 Congressional districts.
Congressional districts covering part but not all of Anne Arundel County have been called a “broken-winged pterodactyl lying prostate across the center of the state,” “blood splatter from a crime scene,” and a “picture from a Rorschach test.” Indeed, Governor Hogan described Anne Arundel County as being “carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey” among its Congressional districts. National media sources have called the 3rd and 4th Congressional district two of the most Gerrymandered districts in the nation.
During the 2020 Maryland General Assembly session, Delegate Malone introduced an identical anti-gerrymandering bill (H.B. 1491) that received widespread bipartisan support (65 total co-sponsors), including the entire House Republican delegation and 23 House Democrats who co-sponsored the 2020 bill. This year, H.B. 1260 is supported by Common Cause, The League of Women Voters and Represent Maryland, to name a few. This year, due to COVID, obtaining co-sponsors was limited or nearly impossible. The language of the bill has received past co-sponsors from every Maryland county and Baltimore City. Let’s end GerryMaryland.