Maryland Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee v. State Administrative Board of Election Laws, 781 F. Supp. 394 (D. Md. 1991) aff'd 504 U.S. 938 (1992)(mem.) reh'g. den. 505 U.S. 1231 (1992)

The plaintiffs (who included residents of Anne Arundel County as well as members of both the Republican and Democratic party central committees) alleged that the Maryland General Assembly failed to make a good faith effort to achieve numerical equality and that the congressional plan was adopted with discriminatory intent to "deprive the plaintiffs of an opportunity to effectively participate in the political process."  Plaintiffs also alleged that the plan constituted an unconstitutional gerrymander, primarily because Anne Arundel County, Maryland's fourth most populous county, was divided among four congressional districts, thereby diluting the votes of the residents.

The Court ruled that Maryland's congressional redistricting plan was constitutional despite relatively small mathematical population deviations between districts.  The overall variance of the plan was ten persons, a variance of .00167 percent.  The justifications offered by the State (keeping three major regions intact, creating a minority voting district, and recognizing incumbent representation with its attendant seniority in the House of Representatives) were found sufficient to meet the tests under Karcher.

Regarding the issue of an unconstitutional gerrymander, the Court found that "carving Anne Arundel County into four pieces--while perhaps enough to raise eyebrows--does not violate any federal constitutional provision, including the mandate of Art. I, § 2, to give full effect to the voice of the ‘people.'"   Essentially, the plaintiffs failed to make a Davis showing of vote dilution.

Legislative Redistricting Cases331 Md. 574, 629 A.2d 646 (1993)

Several parties brought action in the Maryland Court of Appeals challenging the Governor's redistricting plan.  The Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court, has original jurisdiction in state legislative redistricting matters.  It appointed a special master to consider the challenges and report to the Court.

The Court found:

Marylanders for Fair Representation v. Schaefer795 F. Supp. 747 (D. Md. 1992)

Plaintiffs challenged the legislative redistricting plan enacted by the Maryland General Assembly on the ground that it violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Defendant Governor and other state officials moved to dismiss or stay proceedings on abstention grounds pending review of the plan by the Maryland Court of Appeals.  The three-judge district court denied the motion but agreed to stay its proceedings informally pending discussions with the state court about how best to coordinate their parallel proceedings.

Marylanders for Fair Representation v. Schaefer144 F.R.D. 292 (D. Md. 1992)

The President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Delegates, who had served as members of the Governor's advisory committee that drafted the plan that served as the basis of the plan the Governor introduced, had been named individually as defendants in the suit.  They moved for an order dismissing themselves as defendants, based on their legislative immunity.  The Court held that "any inquiry into the Maryland Legislature's consideration of the Governor's Plan or its failure to ratify an alternative plan is entirely barred," and granted the motion.  The Court reserved a ruling on whether they might be questioned concerning their actions in helping to draft the plan before the Governor introduced it.

Marylanders for Fair Representation v. Schaefer849 F. Supp. 1022 (D. Md. 1994)

The three-judge district court held that neither the state Senate nor Delegate districting violated the "one person, one vote" principle.  It also held that the legislative districting plan did not contain unconstitutional poltical gerrymandering.  Regarding the claims made under the Voting Rights Act, the Court found that a mere showing of a general pattern of racially polarized voting was not itself sufficient to require that the plan maximize the number of majority minority districts statewide.  However, the Court did find that the redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act in the Eastern Shore region of the State.

More specifically, the Court held that voters failed to demonstrate that the 9.84 percent deviation in the Senate portion of the legislative plan was not caused by court-approved state policies.  Consequently, they failed to establish a violation of the equal protection clause.  Similarly, the state Delegate districts, despite a maximum deviation of 10.67 percent did not violate the equal protection clause because the deviations were necessary to preserve boundaries of political subdivisions, preserve cores of prior districts, avoid splitting precincts, and respect natural boundaries.

Minority-party voters failed to establish that the plan had a discriminatory effect necessary for a successful claim of unconstitutional political gerrymandering, even though minority-party members would continue to be underrepresented in the General Assembly.  There was no evidence that the plan would prevent the minority party from raising campaign funds, discourage voters from registering with the minority party, prevent its members from participating in public debate, or discourage minority-party members from running for office.  The party held 20 percent of the legislative seats and the legislative majority was responsive to its interests.

The Court did find that under a totality of circumstances, the state's redistricting plan for the House of Delegates in the Eastern Shore region violated the Voting Rights Act.  Among the totality of circumstances, it found that: the bloc-voting White majority consistently defeated candidates supported by the region's politically cohesive African American Community, there was a history of voting discrimination in the region, single-shot voting was frustrated, thereby impairing the opportunity of Black voters to elect representatives of their choice;  there had never been an African American delegate or senator from the region; and in countywide elections only five African Americans had been elected, all from majority-minority districts.

The State was ordered to prepare and submit a new redistricting plan for the Eastern Shore that created "a single-member delegate district with a majority-black voting-age citizen population" and complied with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

Marylanders for Fair Representation v. Schaefer849 F. Supp. 1072 (D. Md. 1994)

The State complied and the Court accepted the remedial redistricting plan as submitted to it.

State Contact

Karl S. Aro
Executive Director
Department of Legislative Services
90 State Circle, Room 200
Annapolis, MD 21401-1991
410/841-3761 voice
410/841-3764 fax