The Supreme Court will grapple with the legality of partisan gerrymandering in March when it hears arguments challenging congressional-district maps in two states. The court announced Friday it would consider cases from Maryland and North Carolina after lower federal courts threw out the congressional maps in both states, ruling that they were so gerrymandered to favor one party that they violated the constitutional rights of voters. The high court will consider whether to uphold those rulings and order new maps drawn for the 2020 elections in those states. Federal judges in Maryland tossed the state’s congressional map in November after Republicans sued, claiming Democrats went too far when they altered the lines of a district in Western Maryland to defeat the then-Republican incumbent. Since redrawing the map before the 2012 election, Democrats have held a 7-to-1 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation, after entering the redistricting process with six members, to Republicans’ two.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, a lower court chucked that state’s congressional map last August, ruling that Republicans violated voters’ rights in drawing the lines. But even though the court struck down the map, it said it was too late to draw new lines for the 2018 elections, which were held under the old lines. As they had in 2016, Democrats won only three of the state’s 13 congressional districts, though the result in the state’s 9th District is currently tied up in court following allegations that a Republican campaign contractor improperly collected absentee ballots.
If the Supreme Court rules that both maps must be redrawn before the 2020 elections, it could boost Republicans to recapture the Western Maryland seat formerly held by Republican Roscoe Bartlett, who was defeated by Democrat John Delaney under the new lines in 2012. The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. David Trone, who won last November following Delaney’s retirement from Congress to run for president.