A crop of legal challenges to contorted legislative districts in states like Maryland will soon give the Supreme Court its best opportunity in years to consider whether maps drawn for partisan advantage deprive voters of an equal voice in elections. Good-government groups believe the justices are poised to take up redistricting cases from North Carolina or Wisconsin — or both — in the next term. The plaintiffs are challenging the legality of one party drawing an electoral map that all but guarantees its candidates will win nearly all the seats. Either case could have implications for Maryland, where squirrelly congressional lines have helped Democrats control seven of the state’s eight House seats, but have drawn criticism from analysts, voters and the high court itself. The late Justice Antonin Scalia described Maryland’s congressional map as a “crazy quilt” in a redistricting case last year.
“We think there are five justices interested in devising a legal standard to stop partisan gerrymandering,” said Gerry Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, a public interest group that advocates for voting rights and fair elections.
Hebert said rigged districts are “a significant reason for the hyper-partisanship and political gridlock we currently see in state and federal politics.”
Repeatedly in past decades, the Supreme Court has said it is troubled by partisan gerrymandering, but stopped short of finding a plan unconstitutional. Many of those cases have originated in states controlled by Republicans, but the situation in Maryland shows that Democrats also routinely face criticism for drawing partisan boundaries.