Supreme Court justices pummeled Maryland’s meandering congressional districts on Wednesday as they heard arguments in a high-profile case that some hope will reduce political influence in the decennial redistricting process. As they have in past cases, the justices criticized Maryland’s congressional map — with some saying the litigation offered clear evidence of the political motivations behind its design. But the court also appeared to wrestle with setting a standard for just how far mapmakers may go in pursuit of political advantage. “Part of the issue here is you have people from … Potomac joined with people from the far west panhandle,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., pointing to the state’s sprawling 6th Congressional District. “I mean, they both have farms but the former, hobby farms.”
The lawsuit, brought by seven Republican voters living in Maryland’s 6th District, turns on whether the First Amendment may be used to reject a gerrymandered map. The voters contend that Democrats in Annapolis violated their First Amendment rights with the 2011 redistricting by punishing them for their GOP voting history.
In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, Maryland’s mapmakers turned an eight-member House delegation that was split evenly in 2000 into one that now has seven Democrats and one Republican.