It’s tough to understand Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s decision to appeal a judicial panel’s opinion the state’s current congressional district map is unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, a special three-judge panel ruled the state should “establish a neutral commission” to redraw Maryland’s congressional boundaries. The panel was unanimous in its opinion with one judge writing, “There can be no doubt that at every stage of the process, the State’s Democratic officials who put the 2011 redistricting plan in place specifically intended to flip control of the Sixth District from Republicans to Democrats and then acted on that intent.”
Frosh, a Democrat, immediately appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which has twice previously remanded discretion back to the states amid partisan gerrymandering concerns. We don’t see the logic behind asking the high court to again consider taking up the redistricting issue when it has confirmed a preference for the states to handle the individual cases.
Gov. Larry Hogan, who has long championed for an independent review of the state’s districts, sees the matter in the same light.
“The previous governor admitted under oath in a federal deposition that he broke federal law by redrawing the districts for political purposes,” the governor said in a statement. “The Supreme Court sent it to a federal court that ruled unanimously that we have to fix the districts. The fact that the Attorney General is appealing this decision is absurd and ridiculous and it’s not what most people in Maryland want. Marylanders want free and fair elections and they are sick and tired of partisan gerrymandering.'”
We believe the governor is correct. An independent commission needs to redraw the state’s congressional lines and it needs to happen immediately. This is what Marylanders want, according to a 2017 Goucher Poll, which found 73 percent of the sample size favor the approach, with only 20 percent saying politicians should do the design.
Advocates for Frosh’s appeal claim it may be just what is needed to convince the Supreme Court to take up the gerrymandering issues. Though that could be a positive, we don’t think the high court, despite its recent changes, will hear the case and will remand it back to the states to decide. Therefore, efforts put into Frosh’s appeal – which costs the state money – will be all for naught. At that point, the only thing besides money that will have been wasted is time, which is important as another election season will be here before we know it.
In the end, we believe this month’s ruling will carry significant weight and result in what Hogan wants – a bi-partisan approach to redrawing legitimate and acceptable district lines. The current map has been found illegal and it’s time for Maryland to create fair district boundaries across the state.