Update: The commission has unanimously picked Stephen’s map. See here for full details.
Last November, a federal court struck down Maryland's 6th Congressional District, finding that Democrats in the state legislature had created an illegal partisan gerrymander in violation of the 1st Amendment by discriminating against Republican voters. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has formed a commission seeking public input on how to redraw the lines ahead of oral arguments at the Supreme Court (which is hearing an appeal of the case) that are set for March.
To take advantage of this opportunity, we are submitting the proposed map shown at the top of this post to Hogan's commission (click here for a larger version). Below, we’ll provide some brief background on the case and explain the reasoning behind what our proposal does and doesn’t change.
A critical aspect of the lower court’s ruling is that it only invalidated a single district, the 6th, which until the last round of redistricting had been solidly Republican. But Democrats, who controlled both the legislature and the governorship following the 2010 census, redrew the 6th to ensure it would instead elect a member of their own party. And indeed in did: In the 2012 elections (the first under the current lines), Democrat John Delaney unseated longtime Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. (Delaney was succeeded last year by another Democrat, David Trone.)
Maryland Democrats assured this outcome by adding parts of heavily Democratic Montgomery County in the Washington, D.C. suburbs to the 6th, which historically had occupied the western part of the state. This change did not affect the Democratic Party’s strength elsewhere in the state, as all of the other districts occupying parts of Montgomery County remained solidly blue.
Politically, the shift was dramatic. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain carried the old 6th District by a 58-40 margin over Barack Obama. Under the new lines, however, Obama would have beaten McCain 56-42. You can also see how the 6th was altered geographically in the maps below:
That brings us to our proposed map. In related redistricting cases that have only struck down single districts, courts have generally preferred that remedial plans alter as few districts as possible. Our plan therefore only makes adjustments to the 6th District and the neighboring 8th District to comply with the court’s decision.
In keeping with this principle, our map removes the portions of the existing 8th District (which is heavily Democratic) that took in Republican voters in Carroll and Frederick Counties, giving them back to the 6th. In exchange, the 6th would return more than 200,000 heavily Democratic residents in Montgomery County to the 8th (which would, naturally, become even bluer). We made sure not to split any incorporated cities or census-designated communities between the redrawn 6th and 8th.
This swap would transform the 6th, which under its present lines backed backed Hillary Clinton by a 55-40 margin in the 2016 presidential race, into a district that supported Donald Trump 52-43, representing a 24-point swing toward Republicans. Given that Democrats have won the existing 6th this decade by margins ranging from 1 point in 2014 to 21 points in both 2012 and 2018, this shift likely would have been enough to ensure Republicans held the 6th District this whole decade.
Stephen Wolf is an elections writer for the political news site Daily Kos and a nationally recognized expert on redistricting. Each week, he publishes a widely read newsletter, the Voting Rights Roundup, which covers important voting rights developments around the country, with a special emphasis on redistricting. He has published analyses of dozens of district maps, at both the congressional and legislative level, and has drawn hundreds of hypothetical maps of his own. In particular, he has focused on redistricting using nonpartisan criteria and has published a series of nonpartisan maps for each of the 43 states that contain more than one congressional district.
Wolf's work on redistricting has been cited by many publications and organizations, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, Vox, and the Brennan Center for Justice. His work has also appeared in The New Republic and will appear in a forthcoming paper to be published in the American Political Science Review with Profs. Anthony J. McGann, Charles Anthony Smith, Michael Latner, and Alex Keena, who are the co-authors of the book Gerrymandering in America. Wolf earned a B.A. in political science from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015.
In 2018, as an amicus, Wolf submitted two nonpartisan redistricting plans to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which had ruled that the state's congressional map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and sought input from the public in crafting a remedial map. That map, drafted by special master Nathaniel Persily, bore a number of resemblances in key aspects to Wolf's plans. In January of 2019, Wolf moderated a panel on nonpartisan redistricting reform at the University of Southern California, featuring former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bipartisan set of reform activists.
Wolf's work on the map in this post has been undertaken as part of his employment with Daily Kos, which is a partisan political organization dedicated to electing Democrats. However, Daily Kos is also dedicated to a belief in fair elections and strongly supports nonpartisan redistricting nationwide. The redistricting plan put forth in this post reflect that belief and rely solely on nonpartisan criteria.