So… the Maryland redistricting map was revealed and signed into law recently, and – shock! Surprise! – the Democratic-controlled legislature managed to hack into one of the two Republican seats. The short version: they went into Roscoe Bartlett’s MD-06, switched out a bunch of districts to make it more competitive, and then put central Maryland into the redistricting blender and hit ‘puree.’ Because, well, central Maryland is dominated by the Baltimore and Washington DC metro areas, which is another way of saying that it’s prime Democrat country. The redistricting is likewise allegedly designed to give current Congressman John Sarbanes an easy, carefree life until such time as there’s a vacancy for MD-SEN; all in all, if you were hoping to see a Maryland redistricting map that didn’t look like a four-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, well, be disappointed yet again.
There’s just one small problem for the Maryland Democratic party, and it’s called the Voter Rights Act of 1965. Or, perhaps, ‘karma.’
The central issue for redistricting politics in Maryland is that the last ten years have seen a net growth in the minority population, to the point where African-American and Hispanic activists have been arguing that Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties need to be stopped being used as an anchor point for bizarre, convoluted Democratic-controlled gerrymandering schemes. In fact, it was widely argued that a new majority-minority seat needs to be created… which would purely make life personally difficult for Sarbanes, Ranking Member (Budget) Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer. Which is why Maryland Democrats didn’t do that.
Which is why there will be a court challenge.
[Fannie Lou Hamer PAC spokesman Radamase Cabrera] said he hopes the motion will be filed next Friday.
He also says the group intends to ask the U.S. Justice Department for an injunction based on alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act.
More on the pushback here and here – which is being supported, by the way, by the Maryland Republican party, in time-honored fashion. As I’ve noted before, the GOP establishment is actually fairly comfortable with the VRA’s racial gerrymandering system, and this situation is almost a textbook example of why: carving out another Democratic majority-minority district in central Maryland will do very little to hurt Republicans, and do quite a bit to hurt the national Democratic party leadership. Also, the more Democratic you make one district, after a certain point the more Republican you have make others.
This is a cynical position, of course; but then, so is racial gerrymandering. Or gerrymandering in general. And about half of America’s political traditions*. I don’t like it very much, and when I get hired by the Republican party to go around the country and smack state legislatures in the collective face with a halibut until they agree to create compact Congressional Districts I will go about my duties with great vim and vigor. Until then, this is the board, and this is the game.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Don’t underestimate the value of cynicism, by the way. The current system we have allows us to trade off power between political factions on a regular basis without the need for automatic weapons fire. Based on the historical record, that’s actually… very impressive, really.