Category Archives: redistricting

More Hogan Hypocrisy

Can we please stop pretending that Gov. Larry Hogan is a swell bipartisan guy?

Larry Hogan has been railing against gerrymandering in Maryland for some time. So it should have been an easy lift when seven Democratic U.S. House members asked him to support national redistricting reform.

Hogan turned them down flat.

If Hogan was really cared about fairer methods of drawing congressional districts, he would have said he’d be glad to do it. Or, at least, that he would be happy to support their bill for national reform if they’d support his efforts in Maryland. But not our Larry.

If you didn’t get the message, his public comments made crystal clear that Hogan only cares about redistricting reform because he thinks it will benefit Maryland Republicans. As he turned down national redistricting reform, he touted that several Democrats could “lose their seats” under his proposed reform.

This is part of a larger Republican pattern. Republicans fought redistricting reform tooth and nail in Arizona, trying to get the initiative overturned in court and then suing to overturn the plans passed by the nonpartisan commission. In Florida, a court recently imposed a new plan to overturn a gerrymander enacted by Republicans in violation of a reform initiative. Republicans have enacted congressional gerrymanders in major states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.

In contrast, Democratic California has a reformed commission system. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a redistricting reform that will go into effect with the next census. A rare bright spot for bipartisanship was acceptance by both parties of a reform plan for the state legislature (but not Congress) in Ohio.

Republicans like Hogan favor redistricting reform in Maryland not because it is generally the right thing to do but to gain advantage. Put another way, our governor cared enough go out of state to campaign for Chris Christie for president but he can’t be bothered to support national redistricting reform because that is a “federal” issue.

As when he threw his public tantrum to defend Trump, Hogan has shown his very partisan colors. It’s really time that the press and commentators stopped pretending otherwise.

Projected Impact of Congressional Reapportionment in 2020


Election Data Services (EDS) has produced its annual projection of seat gains and losses for the U.S. House. As usual, Maryland is not expected to gain or to lose a seat in 2020. The average district will contain just over 783,000 people in Maryland.

We are closer to gaining a ninth seat than to losing our eight seat. According to EDS, Maryland would require 293,188 more people than expected to gain a seat. On the other hand, the Census would need to show 485,502 people than projected to lose a seat.

States Expected to Gain Seats

Arizona +1 (from 9 to 10)
Colorado +1 (from 7 to 8)
Florida +2 (from 27 to 29)
North Carolina +1 (from 13 to 14)
Oregon +1 (from 5 to 6)
Texas +3 (from 36 to 39)

California and Virginia are the nearest other states to gaining a seat. A gain of just 29,302 people would give California the last seat in the U.S. House instead of Florida. Virginia missed gaining one more seat by 69,841 people.

Similarly, the lost of 15,608 people by Florida would cost the Sunshine State its second additional seat. Arizona would gain no new seats if it has 13,741 fewer people than expected.

States Expected to Lose Seats

Alabama -1 (from 7 to 6)
Illinois -1 (from 18 to 17)
Michigan -1 (from 14 to 13)
Minnesota -1 (from 8 to 7)
New York -1 (from 27 to 26)
Ohio -1 (from 16 to 15)
Pennsylvania -1 (from 18 to 17)
Rhode Island -1 (from 2 to 1)
West Virginia -1 (from 3 to 2)

These counts do not include overseas military personnel. In 2000, their inclusion shifted a district from Utah to North Carolina.

BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court Gives New Life to Challenge to MD Congressional Districts

CDMDReversing a decision by the Fourth Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that a federal district court judge erred in dismissing a suit against Maryland’s redistricting plan on First Amendment grounds without letting it go before a three-judge panel. As a result, the case is remanded, presumably so that the petitioner can make his case before a three-judge panel.

Winning a rehearing on an appeal over improper procedure is a long way from winning the challenge. Still, it gives new judicial life to a debate over the legality over Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan that the State had thought had been put to bed. (h/t Rick Hasen).

The opinion of the court can also be found here:
Shapiro v. McManus (2015)

Dems Attack Redistricting Reform Proposal

The following is a press release from the Maryland Democratic Party (you can read my analysis of the partisan impact of the proposals here):

Annapolis, MD – Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Pat Murray released the following statement on the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission’s recommendations:
“Larry Hogan’s hand-picked commissioners received their marching orders on the day they were appointed. The outcome was predetermined by a small group of Republican insiders, the process lacked transparency, and the recommendations are fundamentally flawed.
“Congressional districting is a national issue, and it deserves a national solution. Republicans drew the lines in six of the nation’s ten most gerrymandered states and eight of the nation’s ten most gerrymandered districts. If Larry Hogan is serious about reform, he should ask his allies in the GOP-controlled Congress to schedule hearings on legislation to provide a national solution.”

No Wonder Republicans Love the Idea of Redistricting Reform

CompliantThe Governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission has hashed out a set of recommendations for redistricting reform. No doubt Common Cause, the Washington Post, and Gov. Larry Hogan will hail them as major progress toward a fairer redistricting process.

I look forward to reading the detailed, final recommendations but, based on reports in the media, the Democrats would be committing political malpractice to accept them.

According to Maryland Reporter, “The commission will recommend that any new independent commission apply current state standards for legislative districts to congressional redistricting.” As they note, current requirements for state legislative districts include:

  1. Equal populations
  2. Adherence to the Voting Rights Act
  3. Contiguity and compactness
  4. Minimize disruption of political subdivisions.

Congressional plans already have to adhere to the first two requirements as well as create contiguous districts. Compactness and minimizing the disruption of political boundaries would be new. Both would likely hurt Democrats, particularly the command to minimize disruption of political subdivisions.

Consider the above map, which I drew quickly as a plan that might comply with the Commission’s recommendations. The districts are about equal in population and it still contains two districts in which blacks form a majority of the voting-age population.

Due to Maryland’s geography and the need to minimize disruption of County boundaries, it is a virtual certainty that Republican districts would have to be drawn in both Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

Unsurprisingly, as indicated in the table below, both would be safe Republican territory. President Obama won just 41% of the vote in each of them in 2012. That one change alone would take the current delegation from 7-1 Democratic to 6-2 Democratic.

CompliantStatsDemocrats are highly concentrated in certain portions of Maryland. That fact combined with the requirement to minimize crossing county and municipal boundaries would make more likely the inclusion of yet a third Republican district. In this plan, the Eighth District (Anne Arundel, Calvert, and St. Mary’s County) would favor Republicans, as President Obama won only 47% of the vote there.

This would take the overall delegation from 7-1 to 5-3–a real victory for Republicans. No doubt advocates for redistricting reform will say that this is very fair, as this would more closely match the partisan division of the state.

Except that parties usually receive a significant bonus in seats when they have as solid an advantage as the Democrats do in Maryland. The current plan has very erose boundaries. But the results are not unusual for states where one party is highly dominant at the federal level, as Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Utah demonstrate.

Democrats might try to force the creation of at least six Democratic districts. However, Republicans would be sure to sue if they could produce a plan that violated fewer county and municipal boundaries while complying with other provisions.

Unilateral Disarmament?

In 2010, Maryland was one of the few states in which Democrats controlled redistricting. Unquestionably, Maryland’s lines squirm around the State–more for incumbency protection than necessary for partisan reasons.

Republicans, however, have zero problem drawing odd lines or using their power to advantage their party when they control the process. In 2012, Democrats won a majority of the U.S. House vote in North Carolina but only won 3 of 13 congressional districts.

If Gov. Hogan could bring the gospel of redistricting reform to more large Republican states, it would be easier for Maryland Democrats to follow. Right now, it is hard to imagine why the Democrats would assent to a reform that assures Republican gains–possibly as many as if they got to draw the lines.

Redistricting Forum at UMD


Redistricting Reform in Maryland: Challenges and Solutions Forum to Analyze Next Steps for Reform in Maryland, Nationwide

The Tame the Gerrymander coalition will hold a public forum focused on efforts to replace gerrymandering with a fair and open process to draw congressional and state-legislative district lines. Speakers will include Congressman John Delaney of Maryland, Maryland Delegate Aisha Braveboy and Dan Vicuna, the National Redistricting Coordinator for Common Cause.  Speakers at the forum, all veterans of the uphill battle against gerrymandering, will discuss the problem with the current system and possible solutions that are introduced in Congress and working in states across the country.

The event is being hosted by the Norman and Florence Brody Public Policy Forum at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and is a project of Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, and the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section.

The forum is a follow-up to “The Gerrymander Meander,” a 225-mile relay last month in Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District to highlight the need for reform.

When: November 10th; doors open 5:15 (light refreshments will be served)

Forum starts at 6:00pm.

Where: Executive Dining Room, 2517 Van Munching Hall

School of Business, University of Maryland College Park

(From Campus Drive, turn right at the circle onto Mowatt Lane. Follow signs to Visitor Parking. Van Munching Hall is on your left; free parking is available on the left in Mowatt Lane Parking Garage.)

Who:   Doug Besharov, Moderator and Host (Norman and Florence Brody Professor, UMD School of Public Policy)

Congressman John Delaney (Congressional 6)
Delegate Aisha Braveboy (Legislative 25)
Dan Vicuna (National Redistricting Coordinator, Common Cause)


For more information, contact:

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, 410-303-7954, (Common Cause Maryland)

Nancy Soreng, 301-642-5479, (League of Women Voters of Maryland)

Salisbury Political Shift


The New City Council Plans to Replace this Redistricting Plan Enacted by the Previous City Council

Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton spent much of his first term battling the five-member City Council. While Ireton wanted to pursue his reform agenda, a majority on the Council did its best to block him every step of the way. Indeed, they went so far as to amend the City Charter to transfer control of the City Attorney from the Mayor to the Council.

The 2013 city election and a new redistricting plan should change all that. In 2013, Mayor Ireton won a second term with 68% of the vote over right-wing blogger Joseph Albaro, Jr. Equally interesting, challenger Jake Day trounced incumbent City Council President Debbie Campbell with 71% of the vote, thus shifting the majority on the City Council away from Ireton’s opponents. Day is the new president of the City Council.

One of the orders of business for the reelected Mayor and changed City Council is to resolve the standoff over redistricting. During the past decade, Salisbury had two districts–one a black-majority district that elected a single councilmember and one a white-majority district that elected four councilmembers.

The old Council’s majority had enacted a proposal (shown in the top graphic) to redistrict such that Salisbury would retain two districts but the majority-minority district had two members while the white majority district had three. From their perspective, this plan had the major virtue of concentrating their opponents within the smaller majority-minority district. Both the ACLU and the Wicomico chapter of the NAACP objected to the redistricting plan.

Besides making it easier for Ireton’s opponents to win election from white-majority district, the plan has also allowed the Camden neighborhood within Salisbury to elect a disproportionate share of councilmembers. Not a problem unknown here in Montgomery County where Silver Spring/Takoma Park dominate three of the four at-large County Council seats.

The new redistricting plan never went into effect, though there is a dispute as to why according to delmarvanow:

The city can’t overhaul its districts alone. A 1987 federal consent order requires any substantive changes to be approved by a federal judge. . . .

Although the council formally voted on the plan at the time, City Attorney Mark Tilghman said the council never directed him to file court documents.

“I did not feel like I was authorized to proceed until this day, and I have been anxious to do that,” he said.

Ireton would have had nothing to do with the action, Mitchell said, because the Cohen-led council had changed the City Charter to transfer the attorney from under the mayor’s office to under the council’s control.

The new Council plans to adopt a new plan with five single-member districts (SMDs) that breaks Camden’s dominance on a more permanent basis. SMDs would eliminated the ability of a bloc vote to control the majority elected from the single multimember white-majority district. Put another way, it makes more likely that councilmembers reflecting a range of viewpoints will win election. The new plan will include two majority-minority districts.

But the real question is, now that Mayor Ireton has a more congenial City Council, what’s next for Salisbury?


County Council District Maps

This post is a collection of the new councilmanic district maps from around Maryland. I have done my best to make sure that they are the new rather the old districts but please let me know if any are outdated and where I might find the new map.

They are organized by the type of electoral system used by the county starting with (1) elected at-large with district residency requirements followed by (2) elected entirely from districts, and (3) elected by a mixture of districts and at-large. Counties are listed alphabetically within each category.


Cecil County: Five commissioners with staggered terms.

Cecil Districts


Garrett County: Three commissioners.

Garrett Districts



Anne Arundel: Seven councilmembers.

AA Districts


Baltimore County: Seven councilmembers.

BaltCo Districts


Carroll County: five commissioners.

Carroll Districts


Dorchester County: five councilmembers.

Dorchester Districts


Howard County: five councilmembers.

Howard Districts


Prince George’s: nine councilmembers.

PG Districts


Somerset County: five commissioners (unclear if these are the old or new districts).

Somerset Districts


Worcester County: seven commissioners.

Worcester Districts



Baltimore City: 14 councilmembers elected from districts and the Council President elected at-large.

BaltCity Districts


Frederick County: five councilmembers elected from districts and two elected at-large.

Frederick Districts


Harford County: six councilmembers elected from districts and the council president elected at-large.

Harford Districts


Montgomery County: five councilmembers elected from districts and four elected at-large.



Wicomico County: five councilmembers elected from districts and two elected at-large.

Wicomico Districts


Voting Rights and Redistricting

Many people know that the Voting Rights Act can require the creation of majority-minority districts to protect minority representation. But the actual demands of the Act are often misunderstood.

The Supreme Court outlined the basics of when states must create districts designed to advance minority opportunity in a 1986 case called Thornburg v. Gingles. The case outlined a three-prong test that plaintiffs must meet in order to win a case arguing for the creation of a new majority-minority district.

Specifically, the minority group must prove that (1) it is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) it is politically cohesive; and (3) racial-bloc voting usually defeats the minority’s preferred candidate.

I think of the first prong as the “is there a solution?” prong. Courts generally are not in the business of taking cases where they cannot offer relief. So if it is not possible to create a geographically compact single-member district with a group majority, don’t bother.

Of course, this still leaves room open for interpretation. For example, how compact must a district be to be deemed “geographically compact?” In more recent cases, courts have inveighed against minority districts with bizarre boundaries drawn for racial reasons–even as the Court has deemed it acceptable to gerrymander for partisan reasons.

This prong is one reason why there has been little litigation to create Asian-American majority districts. It’s just not possible to draw these districts  in most areas of the country just as it would likely be very difficult at best to create one anywhere in Maryland.

The second prong requires that the minority group tends to vote together. Obviously, 100% cohesion never actually occurs and is not needed to meet this requirement. Moreover, the level of cohesion can still vary across races.

But the basic idea is that you cannot draw a district designed to protect the interests of minority if the minority is not cohesive. For example, how would one advantage the interests of a group that splits its votes evenly between Democrats and Republicans?

The third prong is often the most critical. If the first prong focuses on the potential for a solution, this prong assesses whether there is a problem. Voting must be racially polarized–that is, the minority and majority groups must regularly, though not always, support different candidates.

Moreover, racial-bloc voting must be sufficiently great to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. After all, if a black candidate in a 40% black district receives 85% of the black vote and 35% of the white vote, the black candidate will still win with 55%.

If the minority candidate can win without drawing a district with a majority of group members, the Court did not really see a problem. Why should courts intervene to aid minority candidates if they have a good shot even without their help?

So the racial-bloc voting has to be sufficient to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. For example, in the same district, if the black candidates rarely received more than 10% of the white vote, they would usually lose and meet the requirement.

In cases in which minorities can win with reasonable frequency even if they do not constitute a majority, courts are more reluctant to create districts. Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez has argued for creating a subdistrict in District 18 to elect a Latino candidate. But her repeated election from a district without a Latino majority would provide evidence for the other side in a court case.

Note that I refer to the minority’s preferred candidate. The point is the candidate preferred by the minority group regardless of the race of the candidate. So white candidates who receive a majority of the black vote running against a black candidate are still minority-preferred candidates–or candidates of choice in the argot. Still, results from elections with candidates of the same race as the group at issue are considered especially valuable in assessing racial polarization in voting rights cases.

One also has to be careful not to lump minority groups together willy-nilly. Courts do not just combine African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans into a single category. On the contrary, one would need to prove that such groups consistently vote together to  begin to make such a case. And they often don’t.

If you’d like to know more, you can buy a copy of my book, The Paradox of Representation: Racial Gerrymandering and Minority Interests in Congress, (the perfect Easter or Passover gift) or look online at Google Scholar or Research Gate for my articles in various political science and law journals.


Competition and Responsiveness in Redistricting

In previous posts, I’ve contended that Maryland’s extremely non-compact districts are nonetheless less skewed to the Democrats than many think. Moreover, compactness and non-partisan maps don’t necessarily result in fair outcomes.

Today, I look at the role of redistricting in promoting competition and responsiveness. The argument in favor rests on the idea that competition is the lifeblood of democracy. It helps voters keep politicians accountable. When voters swing away from one party and to another, the results should reflect the change.

It may seem odd to take into account whether a plan creates competitive districts. However, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission operates under a mandate to prioritize them. It would also potentially result in greater shifts in House seats with changes in the vote for the U.S. House.

Not all agree that competition and responsiveness are a good thing. Tom Brunell has provocatively argued that mapmakers should create as many ultra-safe districts as possible. He points out that fewer voters cast ballots for the losing candidate–and therefore are happier with the outcome–in safe districts.

Let’s work with the other side of the argument, as I suspect more prefer responsiveness to changes in voting behavior rather than static outcomes no matter the election results. How well does Maryland’s current plan promote competition (i.e. close elections) or responsiveness (i.e. changes in seats won with changes in voting behavior)?

Not well. In 2012. the closest race was in the Sixth where challenge John Delaney ousted incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett by 21 points. The next closest race was in the Eighth where Rep. Chris Van Hollen won reelection from his redrawn district by over 30 points.

If Republicans have a problem with the map, it should not be that it is inherently unfair. After all, if Maryland Republican candidates could win one-half of the votes, they likely carry one-half of the seats. Nevertheless, the plan doesn’t look likely to respond to less major changes in the electorate.

Below is a rough draft of a plan that reflects the Democratic edge but is likely to be more responsive to changes in electoral outcomes:

LublinPlan1More Competitive Congressional Redistricting Plan

President Obama won a majority in 2008 in seven of the eight districts. However, his victory level was not nearly as high in several of the districts as under the current plan:

MDCompIn this plan, the Republicans would need a shift of only 1.9% to gain the Third District and 3.0% to gain the Sixth District. One can imagine regular heated competition for both districts with them changing hands depending on the vicissitudes of the electorate.

This plan would also be far more compact and violate fewer county boundaries than the current plan. The 1st would contain the entire Eastern Shore along with Harford and a bit of northern Baltimore County. It does not cross the Bay Bridge. The Seventh, a 54% black voting-age population district, would include all of Baltimore City along with a chunk of neighboring Baltimore County.

The new 2nd would take in the remainder of Baltimore County along with a bit of neighboring Carroll. The 8th is entirely in Montgomery County. The 6th includes all of western Maryland along with almost all of the rest of Montgomery. The 4th, a 61% black VAP district, is almost entirely in northern Prince George’s.

Finally, the 5th is composed of southern Maryland, the rest of Prince George’s and southern Anne Arundel. The 3rd becomes a central Maryland district with all of Howard, northern Anne Arundel and most of Carrol Counties.

The major problem with this plan is that is most likely too favorable to the Republicans. A gain of 7.8% of the vote would allow the GOP to win one-half of the districts even though they would fall far short of the vote share required for an even statewide split.

They might even win all four with an even smaller percentage as the new versions of the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th contain above average shares of white voters. This matters because whites are more likely to shift way from the Democrats when a pro-Republican wind blows than black voters, who are highly concentrated in the 4th and 7th.

So greater competition and responsiveness not always conducive to partisan fairness. However, one might be able to construct a plan that better meets both requirements, though that could result in less compact districts.