The Supreme Court said Friday that it will hear a challenge to Maryland’s congressional districts brought by seven Republican voters who say the state’s 2011 redistricting violated their First Amendment rights. In a case that has been watched closely by state political leaders and that has already been to the Supreme Court once before, the seven voters will now have an opportunity to bring their novel argument before the justices: that the redistricting amounted to a retaliation against them because of how they voted. The court heard a separate redistricting case in October filed by Wisconsin Democrats over that state’s legislative districts that some believed could have bearing on the Maryland litigation. Taking the second case suggests that redistricting will feature even more prominently during the court’s current term.
A three-judge panel in August ruled against the plaintiffs’ request to discontinue use of the state’s current congressional districts ahead of next year’s midterm election. In a 2-1 decision, the court wrote that an immediate fix of the maps would have the effect of “scuttling” other legislative priorities in next year’s General Assembly session. The seven voters appealed to the Supreme Court days later.
“This case is unlike any previous challenge to partisan gerrymandering,” the Republican voters’ lawyer, Michael B. Kimberly, wrote in his appeal in September. “The fact that a gerrymander successfully changes the outcome of an election is strong evidence that the burden inflicted is real.”
Kimberly described the court’s decision to take the case as good news, but otherwise declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who is representing the state in the case, also declined to comment.