Several Republican voters who accused Maryland officials of redrawing a key congressional district to illegally favor Democrats won their federal lawsuit Wednesday, in a sharp rebuke of overt partisan gerrymandering that forces the state to fix the problem before the 2020 elections -- or have federal judges step in and come up with a new congressional map themselves.
The panel hearing the case in U.S. District Court in Maryland said the state must redraw the 6th Congressional District's lines using "traditional criteria for redistricting," showing regard for "natural boundaries."
The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the Maryland case this summer before deciding in June to refer it back to the lower court for a decision, effectively allowing the 2011 map to remain in place for Tuesday's congressional elections.
Circuit Court Judge Paul Niemeyer, says the state's 2011 congressional map removed roughly 66,000 Republican voters from the 6th District and added around 24,000 Democratic voters, "bringing about the single greatest alteration of voter makeup in any district in the Nation following the 2010 census."
Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for the Common Cause advocacy group, said the court's ruling demonstrates Maryland's congressional map "squashed political participation and speech."