Gerrymandering is something Democrats usually whine about. It’s easy for them to do with Republicans controlling an unprecedented amount of state legislatures and gubernatorial seats in modern history – these entities deciding how congressional districts are drawn after the U.S. census is completed every ten years. However, there are undoubtedly cases of gerrymandering taking place in Democrat-controlled states. Maryland is one such example and a law school student has taken their antics to court.
Steve Shapiro, an American University student, has challenged the districts drawn by former Governor Martin O’Malley and the blue legislature on first amendment grounds. The case he’s making is pretty profound – stating that Maryland didn’t gerrymander based on race, but on partisan affiliation. Shapiro and his lawyer argue Maryland was actually pretty transparent in their intentions to subjugate Republican voters.
The plaintiffs actually have a solid foundation under their case. The Maryland legislature redrew their congressional lines before the 2012 elections to unseat 10-term incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). Democrats made specific attempts to keep seven of their eight congressional seats under their control... Bartlett lost his seat in 2012 to Democrat John Delaney.
The lawsuit has hit some bumps along the way. A federal judge threw out Shapiro’s case in 2014. However, the Supreme Court later ruled he should have received a hearing from a three-person panel. That panel Wednesday denied Maryland’s motion to dismiss the case – giving the green light for the lawsuit to continue.
If Shapiro’s lawsuit is successful, it could have major effects for the whole country. The Voting Rights Act prohibits racial gerrymandering, but is vague on partisan-based gerrymandering. This lawsuit may lead to specific rules regarding district packing of Democrats or Republicans for every state.