Even though Doug Jones won a famous statewide victory in last month’s Alabama Senate race, he actually lost — less famously — to Roy Moore in six of the state’s seven congressional districts. That’s right: He carried only the heavily black Seventh Congressional District, into which the Alabama Legislature has jammed almost a third of the state’s African-American population while making sure that the rest of the districts remain safely white and Republican. That’s gerrymandering in the raw. Something equally raw, although less overtly racial, happened in Maryland back in 2011, when the overwhelmingly Democratic State Legislature decided that two Republicans out of Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation was at least one Republican too many. The 2010 census required the state to shrink the majority-Republican Sixth District by 10,000 people in order to restore one-person, one-vote equality among the districts. Seeing its opportunity for some major new line-drawing, the Legislature conducted a population transfer. It moved 66,417 Republican voters out of the district while moving into it 24,460 Democratic voters from safely Democratic adjoining districts, a swing of more than 90,000 votes. And guess what? The 20-year Republican incumbent, Roscoe Bartlett, lost the 2012 election to the Democratic candidate, John Delaney, who has won re-election ever since.
The best news to come out of the Supreme Court in months was its quiet announcement, late on a Friday afternoon in early December, that it was adding to its calendar a challenge to the Sixth District lines, brought by seven Republicans who formerly voted in the old district. This case, Benisek v. Lamone, has received much less attention than Gill v. Whitford, the case the justices heard in October that challenges a notorious Republican gerrymander of the Wisconsin State Assembly. But I predict that the Maryland case, which the court will hear in early spring, will prove to be the more important of the two.
Based on my informal survey of friends and colleagues, the few who are aware of the Maryland case assume it to be a copycat case with little independent significance. But consider its odd trajectory to the court. Last Aug. 24, a special three-judge federal court voted 2 to 1 to reject the plaintiffs’ request for an order requiring new district lines to be in place for the 2018 midterm election. A week later, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, along with a motion to expedite consideration of the case so that it could be heard in November, just weeks after the argument already scheduled in the Wisconsin case. When the justices denied that request, without comment, on Sept. 13, the natural assumption was that the court would simply keep the Maryland case on hold until it decided the Wisconsin case later in the term.
Full Article: Two Ways of Looking at Gerrymandering – The New York Times.