Election Law

Partisan gerrymander in Maryland violates First Amendment right to political association, court says

  • Print.

maryland voting

Early Voting Center sign in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2016. Graves Creative Design / Shutterstock.com

A special three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that Democratic leaders in Maryland violated a First Amendment right to political association and representation when they redrew boundaries for a congressional district to benefit their party.

Democrats could lose a seat in Maryland’s sixth congressional district as a result of the ruling, report the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Politico and the Baltimore Sun. But the holding, if eventually implemented nationwide, could benefit Democrats, the Wall Street Journal points out.

The case had previously reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the denial of a preliminary injunction in June. The Supreme Court returned the case to the lower courts without deciding whether partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional.

When redrawing the district lines, Maryland lawmakers removed about 66,000 Republican voters from the Sixth Congressional District and added about 24,000 Democratic voters.

Two judges on the panel agreed there was a violation of both the right to association and to representation. A concurring judge found only a violation of the right to association and said he disagreed with using the results of the election to prove the gerrymander succeeded.

The special three-judge panel gave the state a March 2019 deadline to propose a new map. If the state doesn’t act, a court-appointed commission will draw the boundaries.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.