A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has thrown out Maryland’s 6th Congressional district, a decision that is now heading to review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who has long called for a state commission to draw district lines, has formed a commission of his own to draw new ones.  But gerrymandering in MoCo congressional districts is nothing new.  Annapolis Democrats have redrawn congressional districts in MoCo more than once to replace Republican U.S. House Representatives with members of their own party.

Let’s start with the 1991 map of Congressional Districts 6 and 8.

In that year, Congressional District 6 contained all of Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties plus most of the portions of Howard County outside the Interstate 95 corridor.  Congressional District 8 contained all of Montgomery County except for Takoma Park, Downtown Silver Spring and the southern part of the Route 29 corridor.

The two districts were not very different from the maps of the 1970s and 1980s.  For most of the 1990s, both districts were represented by Republicans: Roscoe Bartlett in District 6 and Connie Morella in District 8.

 

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The 2002 map was drawn in an effort to knock out Morella.

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Much of MoCo’s relatively moderate upcounty areas were shifted from District 8 into District 6 and the Prince George’s County-based District 4 while parts of Prince George’s County near D.C. were added.  That had the effect of making Morella’s District 8 more Democratic.  Bartlett’s District 6 had Howard County removed but conservative portions of Baltimore and Harford counties were added, maintaining the district’s Republican character.  The new lines in District 8 contributed to Morella’s defeat by Democratic challenger Chris Van Hollen.

 

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Annapolis Democrats then came after Bartlett.

The 2011 map radically changed District 6, removing Republican areas in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties and some of the rural parts of Frederick County.  In their stead, Democratic areas in western MoCo were added.

This helped Democratic challenger John Delaney defeat Bartlett.  To compensate for the changes in District 6, rural portions of Carroll and Frederick counties were added to District 8, making that district slightly less Democratic.

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Now let’s look at the electoral numbers of these districts over the same time span.  In District 8, Morella’s percentage of the vote slipped steadily from 73 percent in 1992 to 52 percent in 2000.

The 2002 map helped produce a six-point improvement in Democratic performance and a five-point drop in Morella’s performance, which was enough to earn Van Hollen the win.  The district has not been competitive since though the 2011 map cut Democratic performance by an average of 7 points.

District 6 is now a very different district from what it once was.

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From 1992 through 2010, Bartlett won an average of 61 percent of the vote.  But under the 2011 map, Bartlett’s percentage fell to 38.  That’s not because he instantaneously became a terrible congressman.  It’s because many Western Maryland Republicans in his district were replaced by MoCo Democrats.

To be fair, it’s also because the self-funding Delaney was the most formidable challenger Bartlett had ever faced.

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The redrawings of Districts 6 and 8 have helped transform Maryland’s eight-member U.S. House delegation from an even split in the 1993-2003 period to a nearly all-Democratic composition now. (District 1 representative Andy Harris is the state’s sole Republican U.S. House member.)

The General Assembly’s Democratic leadership is acutely aware of this fact.  Expect them to fight to the bitter end to retain their power to draw district lines.

Adam Pagnucco is a writer, researcher and consultant who is a former chief of staff at the County Council. He has worked in the labor movement and has had clients in labor, business and politics.

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6 replies on “Opinion: Congressional Gerrymandering in MoCo”

  1. I’m still not entirely clear as to why a district that goes from Garrett to Harford (you gotta get population somewhere) was ok but one that goes from Garrett to MOCO isn’t (assuming of course the Governor and Mr. 16% have only the purest of motives and aren’t partisan hacks like the rest of us). Do explain…

  2. Although the 6th is the basis of the court case, Maryland’s 3rd is a travesty to the concept of Congressional representation.

    I’m a Democrat who is fully supportive of Hogan’s efforts to limit the political gerrymandering.

  3. Yes, Connie was quite simply the best. It seemed that all liked her. That said, redistricting along delegate and/or county lines is long overdue. Districts should be compact and not allowed to scatter over the map. Ideally, congressional districts would not favor either party and instead be drawn independent of those.

  4. I wish for that the average Republican were like Connie Morella and the average Democrat like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We have got to shift the Overton window in this country. I wish we had a reasonable two-party back and forth system consisting of sane, rational conservatives and a pro-labor democratic socialist left. Instead we have the banal corporatists and the too far gone MAGA fascists. This shifted slightly for the better in 2018 but not enough.

  5. Thanks for this interesting piece. The governor’s Emergency Commission on Sixth District Gerrymandering, on which I serve, has now set the venue and time for its next public hearing, which will be in Montgomery County on January 31:

    Montgomery College, Rockville Campus
    Theatre Arts Arena
    51 Mannakee Street
    Rockville, MD 20850
    January 31, 7 p.m.

    Here’s a chance to speak out about what a fairer and better Sixth Congressional District should look like, taking into account the inevitable effects on the adjoining Eighth (and if appropriate other districts). Please attend and encourage others to do so. Another hearing will be held on February 6 in Allegany County, and there will follow further public hearings in March after the commission makes public a proposed map.

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