Under pressure from lawsuit, Maryland Dems admit to gerrymandering to win election – and it worked

Anders Hagstrom, DCNF

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley admitted that he, along with other Maryland Democrats, gerrymandered the state’s 6th district to oust long-time Republican incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in 2012, the Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday.

A lawsuit filed in 2013 alleged gerrymandering has been moving through Maryland’s courts, forcing Democrats to talk about what the Baltimore Sun says many already suspected: that the Democratic redistricting was unconstitutional. Following the 2010 census, Democrats expanded Bartlett’s 6th district into the heavily-Democratic Montgomery and Frederick counties.

“That was my hope,” O’Malley told attorneys in his deposition. “It was my intent to create … a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican.”

He succeeded.

In 2010, Bartlett won the 6th district by 28 points over his Democratic challenger. In the 2012 election, after the Democrats shuffled the maps, Bartlett lost his seat by 21 points to Democrat John Delaney.

Attorneys conducted depositions on O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch, and Senate President Thomas Mike Miller Jr., all of whom acknowledged that the redistricting was suspect, though Miller argued he was not involved.

O’Malley said the map probably wasn’t “good for the country as a whole.”

Stephen Shapiro, a former federal employee and the plaintiff in the case, argues that the gerrymandering violated the First Amendment rights of Republican voters. His suit was nearly thrown out by a district judge, but appeals brought it all the way to the Supreme Court in 2015, which unanimously branded the district map a “crazy quilt,” and demanded that the lawsuit be allowed to continue.

Now, with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, the state is moving toward redistricting reform. Hogan has been calling for a non-partisan redistricting commission since his election in 2014, arguing that with the 2020 census and subsequent redistricting only one election away, it’s imperative that changes be made.

Democrats are resisting, however; responding that they shouldn’t have to reform their redistricting practices when Republicans are doing the same thing in other states.

Hogan is not convinced.

“Just because others do not have the political will or courage to do the right thing, that should not deter from taking action right here in Maryland,” he said in March. “The status quo is no longer good enough.”

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