Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to act on partisan gerrymandering, calling the matter “one of the most important issues in America today.”
The court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in two cases — one centered on Republican gerrymandering in North Carolina, the other challenging Democratic-led gerrymandering in Maryland.
Outside the courthouse, Hogan — appearing with fellow Republican and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger — spoke in a hoarse voice against the practice of drawing political districts to favor a particular political party.
“We’re hopeful the court will take action,” Hogan said, adding that he heard “compelling” arguments from both sides in a session that lasted more than two hours. “Taking action will make a tremendous difference in what the politics of our nation look like.”
Schwarzenegger said gerrymandering encourages politicians to pander to the extremes of their parties, rather than finding compromise in the middle.
Hogan, who is mulling a 2020 challenge to President Trump, and Schwarzenegger, the movie star turned politician who has made gerrymandering one of his key issues, also spoke at an anti-gerrymandering rally Tuesday morning organized by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.
“This is not a fight between the right and the left — this is a fight between right and wrong,” Hogan told the crowd, many of whom were bundled up against the brisk weather and carrying red, white and blue signs reading “Fair Maps” and “End Gerrymandering Now.”
A bearded Schwarzenegger drew upon a dusty but nonetheless crowd-satisfying reference to his 35-year-old action-film role: “We must terminate gerrymandering!” he said, calling the practice “a national disgrace and a national scandal.”
Schwarzenegger, who left office in 2011, declared “Hasta la vista” to gerrymandering at a similar rally two years ago, when the Supreme Court took up the Maryland case and a partisan gerrymandering case from Wisconsin. (The justices declined to decide those cases.)
California voters approved creating an independent redistricting commission for their state in 2008, while Schwarzenegger was in office.
In November, a three-judge panel declared Maryland’s 6th Congressional District gerrymandered by Democrats to the point of unconstitutionality and ordered that the lines be redrawn before the 2020 election. That order has been stayed while the Supreme Court considers an appeal of the case, which was brought by Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D).
In the meantime, Hogan created an emergency commission — originally made up of three Republicans, three Democrats and three unaffiliated voters — to come up with a new map for the 6th District, which now stretches from conservative western Maryland to liberal Montgomery County.
The commission this month shed two of its unaffiliated members who ended up being ineligible to serve. It is supposed to send a new map for the district to Hogan for him to submit to the General Assembly as emergency legislation.
But leaders in both Democratic-majority chambers have indicated they will not advance that legislation and are waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision before they act. The high court has declared racially based gerrymandering unconstitutional but has not made an equivalent ruling regarding gerrymandering that favors a specific political party.