Court Strikes Down Maryland Gerrymander, Orders Fair Map for 2020

Today a federal three-judge panel in the district court of Maryland struck down a partisan gerrymander and entered an injunction ordering the state to promptly to adopt a new plan for use in the 2020 congressional elections. 

“The court clearly sided with voters today by declaring that an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander in Maryland squashed political participation and speech,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director for Common Cause. “Gerrymandering is an abuse of power no matter who does it, and both Democrats and Republicans use it for their political gain.”  

Benisek v. Lamone is a First Amendment challenge to Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District, which Democrats drew after the 2010 census in a successful attempt to defeat a longtime Republican incumbent. In addition to filing an amici brief, Common Cause coordinated multiple amici briefs from bipartisan leaders to end this partisan gerrymandering.  

“The court’s holding that partisan gerrymandering discriminates against citizens for their views and violates the First Amendment is a clear win for democracy,” said Michael Kimberly, partner at Mayer Brown LLP and lead attorney in Benisek v. Lamone 

Today’s opinion stated: 

  • The State specifically targeted voters in the Sixth Congressional District who were registered as Republicans and who had historically voted for Republican candidates. 
  • The State specifically intended to diminish the value of those targeted citizens’ votes by removing a substantial number of them from the Sixth District and replacing them with Democratic voters for the purpose of denying, as a practical matter, the targeted voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.  
  • The State gave effect to its intent by, on net, removing about 66,000 Republican voters from the Sixth District and adding 24,000 Democratic voters in their place.  
  • The State meaningfully burdened the targeted Republican voters’ representational rights by substantially diminishing their ability to elect their candidate of choice. 
  • The State also burdened the Republican voters’ right of association, as demonstrated by voter confusion, diminished participation in Republican organizational efforts in the Sixth District, and diminished Republican participation in voting, as well as decreased Republican fundraising.  

“These injuries were the direct result of the State’s purpose to convert the Sixth District from a solid Republican district to a Democratic district,” the opinion stated. “We thus conclude that the plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated that Maryland’s 2011 redistricting law violates the First Amendment by burdening both the plaintiffs’ representational rights and associational rights based on their party affiliation and voting history.”  

Read the opinion here.