Md. Rep. David Trone criticizes Supreme Court decision on his district

The shape of U.S. Rep. David Trone’s congressional district in Maryland was the subject of one of the cases decided Thursday by the Supreme Court. And while the court went seemingly in Democrat Trone’s favor, the congressman told WTOP Thursday afternoon that it was still the wrong decision.

The court missed “a real opportunity to attack what’s the biggest problem across the country that’s leading to the division of the U.S. [into] hard left and hard right, and stops folks from getting things done,” Trone said Thursday. He called the decision “very disappointing.”

In the Maryland case, the Democrats who drew the district lines after the 2010 census were accused of doing it in such a way that a Democrat could win in what had long been a Republican stronghold.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts can’t do anything about that. The five-member conservative majority said that Congress, state courts and legislatures, as well as ballot questions, were the way to set up a method that takes partisanship out of the process.

The decision means that Trone’s 6th Congressional District lines won’t change before he’s up for reelection in 2020.

Trone said he didn’t need help: “My district has about 4% more Democrats than Republicans, and yet I won the district by 21 points. I really appeal to a lot of Republicans.”

He called himself a progressive who is a moderate on issues regarding business and jobs, and who works across the aisle when it comes to addiction and mental health.

“And I think people respect that,” Trone said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, agreed with Trone that the Supreme Court had gotten it wrong. In a statement, he called the decision “terribly disappointing to all who believe in fair elections.”

Both Trone and Hogan used similar terms to criticize the high court’s decision: “The voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around,” the governor said in the statement; district lines should be drawn “so that voters are not being picked by the politicians,” Trone told WTOP.

Hogan said he would reintroduce a state bill to address the problem. “This is a problem we can, should and must solve. It is, and will continue to be, one of my highest priorities as governor,” he said.

Trone said it should be solved on a national level, saying the U.S. Senate needed to take up H.R. 1, passed by the U.S. House in January, which among other things would alleviate the problem.

What is gerrymandering?

When people from one party are in charge of shaping districts, there’s a strong temptation to draw the lines in a way that benefits their party — giving the other party overwhelming majorities of registered voters in a few concentrated districts, and their own party small majorities in a lot of districts. It’s called partisan gerrymandering, and it can lead to a party getting a lot more representatives — in Congress or a state legislature — than their actual support among voters could lead you to believe they’d get.

Two examples from cases that spurred Thursday’s decision: In Maryland, Democrats outnumber Republicans statewide about 2 to 1. In 2000, the state’s eight U.S. House members were split evenly between the parties; now, there are seven Democrats to one Republican.

In North Carolina in 2016, 53% of voters statewide voted for Republican House candidates, but Republicans won 10 of the state’s 13 seats.

“Gerrymandering is wrong, and both parties are guilty,” Hogan said in the statement.

Gerrymandering based on race is still considered unconstitutional, and can be challenged in federal court. Congressional district lines are redrawn after every census; the next census is next year.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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