Gov. Larry Hogan has created an emergency commission to redraw Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which a federal judge deemed unconstitutionally gerrymandered earlier this month.
The commission, created by executive order, will “be charged with preparing a plan in an open, public and transparent manner to amend the boundary lines of the 6th congressional district to address all constitutional violations,” Hogan, a Republican, said at a press conference Monday.
It will include nine individuals, including three Democrats, three Republicans and three people who are unaffiliated. Members of the public can apply to join the commission through a state website.
The Nov. 7 ruling, delivered by a three-judge federal court panel, said the district lines drawn in 2011 under then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, unconstitutionally favored his party.
“The federal court confirmed what we in Maryland have known for a long time: that our state has the unfortunate distinction of having the most gerrymandered districts in the nation,” Hogan said at a press conference.
Any map drawn by the commission would require approval from the state’s General Assembly, currently controlled by Democrats.
Earlier this month, state attorney general Brian Frosh, also a Democrat, appealed the panel’s ruling directly to the high court. In June, the court sidestepped handing down a ruling on the case, Benisek v. Lamone.
Hogan signed a amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, seven Republican voters who opposed the district lines, back in January when the case was slated to be heard before the Supreme Court, which ultimately passed it down to the district level.
He said the unanimous ruling was “a victory for the overwhelming majority of Marylanders who value fairness and balance in our political system.”
“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of American democracy and the most basic promise that those in power can pledge to the citizens we represent,” he said.
The new district must be “geographically compact” and cannot “account for how citizens are registered to vote, how they voted in the past or what party they belong to,” Hogan said.
The 6th district was represented by a Republican in Congress before it was redrawn, and George W. Bush won it twice by nearly 30 percentage points. But after the lines were changed, the district became safely Democratic — voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a 16 percentage point margin — and is currently represented by a Democrat.
“Maryland Democratic officials worked to establish Maryland’s congressional district boundaries in 2011 with a narrow focus on diluting the votes of Republicans in the Sixth Congressional District in an attempt to ensure the election of an additional Democratic representative in the State’s congressional delegation,” the federal court ruling said.
Frosh, who was in the state Senate at the time the map was drawn and who Hogan has criticized for his defense of the district, announced Nov. 15 that he was appealing the federal court’s decision.
According to his court filing, Frosh wants to wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the case before the district’s boundaries are redrawn, writing that their guidance is necessary “to avoid potentially contradictory results or needless expenditure of public resources.”
The panel gave a March 7 deadline for the lines to be redrawn — a process that will likely impact other districts too — but granted a stay on their decision until either the Supreme Court makes a ruling or July 1.
Hogan wants to submit the proposed lines by March 4, with the finalized version for the Maryland General Assembly being completed by April 2.