Judges order Maryland to draw new congressional map for 2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, right, speaks at a news conference alongside Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Md. Hogan earned a second term Tuesday after defeating Democratic opponent Ben Jealous. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

It may surprise you to know that in only about 30 minutes you could drive into five congressional districts in Maryland thanks to gerrymandering: the legal manipulation of electoral districts to give one party an advantage.

Well Wednesday, federal judges ruled Maryland’s 6th Congressional District is so out of line that state leaders must redraw it.

“Gerrymandering has been a problem since the founding of this country,” said University of Mary Washington Political Science Professor Stephen Farnsworth.

Farnsworth says this nationwide problem has profound effects on democracy itself.

“The person who draws the lines has extraordinary power, more power in fact than the hundreds of thousands of people who might vote in that election," said Farnsworth.

Maryland’s 6th Congressional District historically covered Western Maryland and is conservative. But after the 2010 Census, state leaders pulled liberal parts of Montgomery County in, leading to consecutive Democratic victories.

Farnsworth says this type of partisan manipulation, done by both parties, has contributed to the toxic partisan politics we have today in Washington.

“What you get with a gerrymandered district is the most extreme Republicans, the most extreme Democrats, these are the people who win the primaries in the gerrymandered districts, and guess what? They come to Washington, there’s no middle ground, there’s no ability to compromise. And anyone who does compromise is going to get clobbered in the next primary because they weren’t Democratic enough or they weren’t Republican enough. So look, this is a system that gives you gridlock,” said Farnsworth.

State officials have until March to redraw CD-6 or else the court will appoint a commission to do it. If appealed, this case could go to the US Supreme Court.

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