Bipartisan Group of Former Governors to Maryland Courts: Protect Voters and Democracy by Ending Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering

Briefs Bring Together Former Governors Easley of North Carolina, Schwarzenegger of California, Weld of Massachusetts, and Whitman of New Jersey; Contends Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering Harms Maryland Voters and Undermines Good Governance

Published: 3.15.22

Annapolis, MD — On Monday, a bipartisan group of former governors, represented by the States United Democracy Center and Jonathan L. Williams, P.A., submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in two cases seeking to establish that the Maryland Constitution prohibits extreme partisan gerrymandering: Szeliga v. Lamone and In the Matter of the 2022 Districting of the State of Maryland.

The briefs argue that extreme partisan gerrymandering—manipulated by precise, modern technologies and data—violates three articles of the Declaration of Rights in the Maryland Constitution and is inconsistent with democratic values. The briefs were signed by former North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. In the briefs, the governors explain the harms to democracy from extreme partisan gerrymandering and how the practice violates provisions of the Maryland Constitution. In recent weeks, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the practice violates analogous provisions of that state’s Constitution.

“The redistricting process can lead to long-lasting change — at least for the next decade — on people’s schools, hospitals, and transit. It’s critical that the Maryland courts step in to help get this right,” said former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “When there is evidence of partisan gerrymandering, it takes a permanent toll on our democracy, how it functions, and how much trust the people have in it.”

In Szeliga v. Lamone, a case filed in the Circuit Court in and for Anne Arundel County on behalf ­of two Republican House of Delegates members and seven Republican voters in Maryland, the Plaintiffs allege that the congressional map passed by the state legislature disregards county lines and political boundaries, “cracking” and “packing” Republican voters into districts that dilute Republican votes. In their complaint, the Plaintiffs argue that the map violates several provisions of the Maryland Constitution. Beginning March 15, the court will hold a hearing on the Plaintiffs’ claims.

In In the Matter of the 2022 Districting of the State of Maryland, Republican members of the House of Delegates and Republican voters are advancing similar claims before the Maryland Court of Appeals. A court-appointed special magistrate will hold a hearing starting on March 23.

“As the former governor of North Carolina, I’ve witnessed firsthand the disruptive effects that gerrymandering has on our democracy. Entrenching partisan supermajorities in the legislature takes the power to hold elected leaders accountable directly away from the voters,” said former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley. “The Maryland courts need to step up and put a stop to this rigged system just like the North Carolina Supreme Court did.”

“I’ve been on a mission to terminate gerrymandering since I was governor of California and saw the terrible impact caused by politicians who are allowed to pick their voters. We fought for redistricting reform in California and won, proving there is a better way to draw district lines. Maryland doesn’t have a commission like California’s but the courts can put guard rails on the process and ensure that the right to vote is protected. I am pleased to fight for fair maps in Maryland,” said Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th Governor of California and Redistricting Reform Advocate.

“Every voter deserves for their voice to be heard and for their vote to count,” said former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld. “I will continue to take a stand against partisan gerrymandering until elected officials around the country understand that voters get to elect them, not the other way around.”

Key excerpts from the briefs are included below.

“The modern phenomenon of extreme partisan gerrymandering is not just inconsistent with our founding ideals. It harms the workings of our democracy. As former governors of diverse states, amici have experienced how the modern practice of gerrymandering renders our politics more extreme and discourages the kinds of common-sense governing that has made our country work. A legislative branch that attempts to entrench a permanent one-party majority through extreme partisan gerrymandering distorts the separation of powers envisioned by the Framers. …

“This is not the way democracy should work, and this Court need not—indeed, must not—sit idly by. The Maryland Constitution establishes that the right to vote is ‘one of, if not, the most important and fundamental rights granted to Maryland citizens as members of a free society’ and guarantees the ‘fair and free exercise of the electoral franchise’ … As the North Carolina and Pennsylvania Supreme Courts have recently recognized in challenges based on constitutional provisions similar to the ones involved here, extreme partisan gerrymandering violates the principles of free elections and equal protection, and the freedoms of speech and association. …

“This Court should join them in protecting the right to an equally effective vote and hold that the Maryland Constitution prohibits extreme partisan gerrymandering.”

As states redraw their maps according to the 2020 census, the States United Democracy Center is taking legal action in opposition to extreme partisan gerrymandering and in support of fair maps in courts across the country. Read more about States United’s redistricting work here.


About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit statesuniteddemocracy.org.