(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced today that the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County ruled in favor of Judicial Watch’s challenge to Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan. In its ruling the court permanently barred Maryland’s use of its current plan.
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of 12 registered Maryland voters who object to Maryland’s 2021 congressional redistricting plan on the grounds that it is a partisan gerrymander that diminishes their rights to participate in free, fair elections for the U.S. Congress on an equal basis with other Maryland voters, in violation of the Maryland Constitution (Parrott et al. v Lamone et al. (No. C-02-CV-21-001773)). The trial also included plaintiffs from a separate lawsuit.
After conducting a trial last week in Annapolis, MD, the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County ruled today:
With regard to Article 7 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights … the Plaintiffs, based upon the evidence adduced at trial, proved that the 2021 Plan was drawn with “partisanship as predominant intent, to the exclusion of traditional redistricting criteria” … by the party in power, to suppress the voice of Republican voters. The right for all [to] political participation in Congressional elections … was violated by the 2021 Plan …
As result, this Court will enter declaratory judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs, declaring the 2021 Plan unconstitutional, and permanently enjoining its operation, and giving the General Assembly an opportunity to develop a new Congressional Plan that is constitutional. A separate declaratory judgment will be entered as of today’s date.
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit details:
Maryland’s recent history of partisan gerrymandering is no secret. [its 2011] congressional district map … remains one of the most notorious partisan gerrymanders in U.S. history. A federal district judge openly doubted that it could provide “fair and effective representation for all citizens.” Another called it “absurd” to suggest ‘that there is a community of interest” in a district described as a “Rorschach-like eyesore.” [A federal appeals court] famously described the same district as “a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”
The lawsuit relates that a bipartisan commission recommended a map to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on November 5 that he approved, but the legislature passed a different proposal in a straight party-line vote. On December 9, 2021, Hogan vetoed this proposal, and, the same day, the state legislature overrode his veto on another party-line vote.
Outside experts agreed that the plan was flawed, with the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project giving it a grade of “F” for fairness and geographic compactness. In 2020, Republicans accounted for approximately 35% of Maryland’s congressional votes, but they’re unlikely to win even a single seat under this plan. This outcome wouldn’t be possible without political gerrymandering.
“This key court victory against abusive partisan gerrymandering by Democrats in Maryland could set a national precedent,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
In June 2015, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional district map in federal court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters in each of Maryland’s congressional districts—including Maryland Delegate Neil Parrott, who is also the lead plaintiff in this new state-court lawsuit. In December 2016, Judicial Watch filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in response to Maryland’s attempt to retain the gerrymandered voter districting plan.
Judicial Watch is being assisted by Gardner M. Duvall of Whiteford Taylor Preston in Baltimore, and by William J. Holtzinger, Esq., of Frederick, Maryland.