Maryland judge throws out state’s congressional card for ‘extreme partisan gerrymandering’

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A Maryland judge on Friday rejected the congressional district map of the Democratic-controlled state legislature due to ‘extreme partisan gerrymandering’ and ordered him to draw a new one by 30 March.

The scathing opinion, written by Anne Arundel’s Senior Circuit Court Judge Lynne A. Battaglia, marks a massive victory for two GOP-backed lawsuits against the state’s congressional maps.

The legislature passed that map and overruled a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan late last year. The card earned an “F” from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and has the potential to eliminate Maryland’s last Republican congressman.

The historic Maryland State House in Annapolis was built in 1772. (iStock)
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The historic Maryland State House in Annapolis was built in 1772. (iStock)

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“Maryland’s 2021 congressional plan is an ‘outlier,’ an extreme gerrymander that subordinates constitutional criteria to political considerations,” Battaglia wrote.

The notice stated that “the right for all political participation votes in Congressional elections, as protected by Section 7 [of the Maryland Constitution]has been violated by the 2021 plan.”

“The voice of Republican voters has been diluted and their right to vote and be heard with the effectiveness of a Democratic voter has been diminished,” he added. “Congress’s 2021 plan is unconstitutional and subverts the will of the governed.”

An image of Baltimore City's three congressional districts in the final 2021 map proposed by the Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, which was adopted by the Maryland Legislature.  (Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee)

An image of Baltimore City’s three congressional districts in the final 2021 map proposed by the Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, which was adopted by the Maryland Legislature. (Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee)

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Battaglia has scheduled a hearing for April 1 at 9 a.m. to consider whether a new map drawn by the legislature complies with Maryland’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Hogan’s Fair Maps group is behind the lawsuit, which was consolidated with another by Tom Fitton’s Judicial Watch.

Hogan set up a commission to propose an alternative map to the one adopted by the state legislature. This commission would have set up congressional districts that could have led to two US House GOP members representing the state.

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The governor hailed the decision as a “historic step” for the state on Friday.

Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland signs the iconic wooden eggs after speaking at the Politics and Eggs Lecture Series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on April 23, 2019 in Goffstown, NH

Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland signs the iconic wooden eggs after speaking at the Politics and Eggs Lecture Series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on April 23, 2019 in Goffstown, NH
(FoxNews)

Battaglia ordered the state legislature to redraw the state congressional maps by March 30. The decision may be appealable to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which is the highest court in the state. But that tribunal is made up mostly of judges appointed by Hogan, giving Hogan allies confidence that Battaglia’s decision will stand.

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If the legislature doesn’t return with a satisfactory card for Battaglia or the Court of Appeals, it’s unclear what other remedies are available to Maryland courts.

In other states that had intractable gerrymandering disputes, the courts ended up drawing congressional districts. Such was the case in Pennsylvania last month amid a dispute between the GOP-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Any congressional district lines that will be implemented will remain in effect until the next census in 2030.

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