Elbridge Gerry was the fifth vice president of the United States. He was also elected to the Second Continental Congress, and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. However, he is remembered today for a law he signed as governor of Massachusetts which made it possible for the majority party to carve contorted congressional districts to keep its members in power.
One particular district in Essex County took the form of a salamander, inspiring the Boston Gazette to run a cartoon labeling it a “Gerry-mander.” Those who wonder why incumbents typically get re-elected despite antagonizing the voting public can blame the party bosses who do not like competitive elections.
To correct this abuse, Judicial Watch recently filed a historic voter lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional district maps. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters in each of Maryland’s congressional districts.
Plaintiffs in the new lawsuit include Maryland Delegates Neil C. Parrott and Matt Morgan, and former Maryland legislator and gubernatorial candidate Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey. Take a minute to examine the current congressional district map of Maryland here
The lawsuit alleges the Maryland maps were drawn in a way that violates the U.S. Constitution, especially the provision that “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States…” (Article 1, Section 2).
Judicial Watch sued Maryland’s state administrator of elections and the chair of the state board of elections (Parrott, et al, v. Lamone, et al (No. 1:15-cv-01849), asking the court, among other relief, to declare the Maryland maps unlawful and require that Maryland redraw them.
The lawsuit challenges a congressional districting plan signed into law by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2011. It alleges that the Maryland’s congressional district map is the most distorted and confused in the country. According to the lawsuit, the 2011 plan uprooted millions of Marylanders from their previous congressional districts:
The congressional districting plan greatly reconfigured Maryland’s congressional districts. Specifically, the new plan removed approximately 1.6 million Marylanders from their previous congressional district and placed them in a different district . . . In total, 27 percent of all Marylanders were removed from their previous congressional district and placed in a different congressional district.
The lawsuit is unique in proposing a single, objective compactness measure to determine whether states are engaged in unconstitutional gerrymandering. Currently in Maryland, politicians pick their voters, which is unconstitutional.
The state’s gerrymandered congressional district map is a national embarrassment and harms both Democrat and Republican voters. The courts should require Maryland to draw district maps that respect Maryland voters and do not make a mockery of common sense and the rule of law.
Maryland’s gerrymander produces “split counties, county fragments, and split precincts,” resulting in the arbitrary political fragmentation of the state. The lawsuit argues the plan harms Republicans, Democrats, and independents:
Maryland’s gerrymander harms all Maryland voters, regardless of their party preferences or how they would vote in a particular election, by giving State legislators the power to make choices regarding the State’s congressional delegation that only the voters should make. In addition to the general harm inflicted when legislators intrude on powers that should be reserved to voters, Maryland’s gerrymander inflicts particular harm on partisan and non-partisan voters of every description.
Gerrymandering also disadvantages entire legislative districts:
Because voters do not choose where to live so as to suit the purposes of legislators trying to draw gerrymandered districts, they must distend, shrink, and generally distort district boundaries to create districts that contain the mix of voters that best achieves their partisan goals . . . Exceedingly non-compact districts confuse voters regarding such basic matters as which district they reside in, who represents them, who is running for office in their district, and where they go to vote.
The lawsuit presents a “judicially manageable remedy” necessary to resolve clear cases of political gerrymandering, specifically the Polsby-Popper scale, “one of the most widely used measures of electoral district compactness.”
The Polsby-Popper scale is a "straightforward application of a mathematically derived compactness measure to congressional districts[which] can be used as a judicially manageable, discernable, and non-arbitrary standard with which to measure, and deter, excessive partisan gerrymandering.
"Maryland’s congressional districts have an average Polsby-Popper compactness score of 11.3. This is the lowest (worst) average compactness score for congressional districts of any state in the nation."
, co-creator of the Polsby-Popper scale and director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project, is the lead attorney in the case.
Democrats committed the gerrymandering in Maryland, but Republicans are not immune from abusing their power and stealing the constitutional rights of voters. Look at North Carolina’s Twelfth District here
. Republican-controlled governments
in Pennsylvania and Florida have committed many of the worst gerrymanders.
Judicial Watch announced the lawsuit at a press conference at the National Press Club on June 24.
Tom Fitton is the president of Judicial Watch. He is a nationally recognized expert on government corruption. A former talk radio and television host and analyst, Tom is well known across the country as a national spokesperson for the conservative cause. He has been quoted in Time, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and most every other major newspaper in the country. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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