ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday he'll keep pushing for redistricting reform in the state, after the Supreme Court ruled federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over partisan line-drawing of congressional districts.
Leading Democrats countered that a national solution for reform is needed in Congress — not a piecemeal approach on a state-by-state basis.
The Supreme Court reversed federal court rulings in Maryland and North Carolina, where courts had ordered new congressional district maps to be drawn due to partisan gerrymandering. Hogan called the 5-4 ruling "terribly disappointing to all who believe in fair elections."
"Next year, I will again introduce redistricting reform legislation in Maryland to put the drawing of districts in the hands of a balanced, fair, and nonpartisan commission — instead of partisan politicians," Hogan said.
But the Maryland General Assembly, dominated by Democrats, has not acted on the governor's proposal.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said it's a problem that requires a national solution.
"The Supreme Court ruling only strengthens the need for Congress and the President to work together to create a set of rules across the country, and I renew our call on Congress to present a set of rules and for the President to sign it," Miller said. "With this lawsuit over, I hope we can put the issue of the 2011 Redistricting to rest and focus on the many pressing issues facing all Marylanders."
House Speaker Adrienne Jones also said she was disappointed the court didn't offer a national solution "to what is clearly a national problem."
"We will take some time to digest the decision and speak with our members and the Attorney General about our next steps towards the 2021 redistricting," Jones said in a statement.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, urged the court to adopt a nationwide standard "that would prevent extreme partisan gerrymandering."
"The decision today instead prevents voters everywhere from challenging in federal court any redistricting map as excessively partisan," Frosh said in a statement. "The attention now turns to Congress, which has the power to outlaw partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts."
Maryland's governor and state lawmakers create a new congressional map for the state's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives every 10 years, after the U.S. Census. In 2011, with a Democratic governor and a strong majority of Democrats in the legislature, they added a large number of Democratic voters from the Washington, D.C., suburbs to the 6th Congressional District in western Maryland. The following year, a 10-term Republican incumbent was defeated, and Democratic control of the state's congressional delegation increased from 6-2 to 7-1. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland overall 2-1.
Michael Kimberly, a lawyer representing Republicans who challenged the map in court, contended that the change violated the First Amendment rights of Republican voters.
"The focus now will be on state reforms, including possible litigation in state courts," Kimberly said Thursday. "We can't give up this fight."
Melanie Cox, a voter who lives in Frederick, Maryland, in the 6th Congressional District, said she was extremely disappointed in the decision. Cox, a registered Republican who said she casts her vote after considering the qualifications of candidates rather than their political party, said she has felt "very manipulated" by the current process.
"I feel as if I don't have representation for me," said Cox, who is 80. She noted that while she respects Rep. David Trone, a Democrat who won the seat last year, he doesn't live in the district.
Del. Neil Parrott, a Republican who represents a state legislative district in Washington County and has been weighing a future challenge to Trone, said he was disappointed in the ruling, but hoped Hogan and the legislature would develop a fairer map.
"Unfortunately, many people in western Maryland, myself included, believe we are not represented fairly in Congress at all," Parrott said.
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