If you drive west to Garrett County, Maryland, and ask people what Potomac is like, they usually say they don’t spend much time “downstate.” They watch the Pittsburgh nightly news and, on Sundays, root for the Steelers. When I asked people in the tony Washington suburb of Potomac about Oakland, the Garrett County seat, they unfailingly replied, “Where’s that?” Maryland is a ragtag jumble of mansions and mountain towns—it’s normal not to know much about what goes on 170 miles away. But the people who live along the Youghiogheny River and the ones who take the Red Line into DC each morning have something in common: They are all residents of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. Which means these strangers-turned-bedfellows share something else: They are the most gerrymandered people in America. At least they are for now. In March, the Supreme Court heard a groundbreaking challenge to the district’s wild contours, brought by seven Republican voters. These Marylanders argue that the Grand Canyon–size district—in a state whose seven others would barely cover the map of Massachusetts—was redrawn to punish the region’s GOP voters.
Before the court’s term ends next month, the justices may hand down a decision that radically changes American politics. Benisek v. Lamone is one of two cases before them that take on an age-old system allowing members of Congress to handpick their constituents, effectively deciding their contests well before Election Day.
But the battle over Maryland’s 6th is different than other gerrymanders—and not just because Democrats are the culprits. The pols who rigged this district left behind a massive paper trail that lays out exactly how it all happened, an operation so fine-grained that mapmakers parked a district line less than a block from a candidate’s house.
Look behind the doors this case has pried open and it’s easy to see why the court is now asking: Is enough finally enough?