Leading lawmakers announced Monday that Maryland legislators who created the first congressional map drawn in redistricting will vote on a new one this week.
After Judge Lynne Battaglia’s Friday ruling that the December map approved by lawmakers was a result of extreme partisangerrymandering, Democrats returned to the drawing boards over the weekend.
Legislation with the new map will be heard by lawmakers Tuesday morning.
“This legislation is contingent upon the loss of an appeal, and is expected to reach the Governor’s desk next week,” Senate President Bill Ferguson said and House Speaker Adrienne James stated in a press release. “However we worked quickly to ensure that redistricting did not get delayed further and that the presented map reflected the new requirements as set out by Judge Battaglia.
Battaglia stated that the map violated the state constitution’s requirement that legislative districts be composed of adjacent territory and be compact in shape, with due consideration for natural boundaries as well as political subdivisions. She also said that it violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech, and free elections clauses.
The judge returned the map to the legislature for a revised plan by Wednesday and set a Friday hearing for the court to hear it.
Maryland’s registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2-1, but Democrats have a 7-1 edge over Republicans in the state’s U.S. House delegation. Opponents of December’s map said that it made Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s only Republican, vulnerable.
The new map was released Monday night. It removes a previous modification to Harris’ district which would have added more Democrats by extending the 1st Congressional District over the Chesapeake Bay to Anne Arundel County.
Other courts have reversed maps that were GOP gerrymanders, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This angered Republicans and led conservatives to demand the U.S. Supreme Court limit the power of state courts and their ability to interfere with maps drawn by state legislatures.
The General Assembly approved the initial map late last year after a majority of state legislators, including four Democrats, two Republicans, and approved it. Republican Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill, but the Democrats in control of the legislature overrode him. The lawsuit was filed by GOP lawmakers.
Hogan, a rare Republican two-termer in a Democratic state during a redistricting season, was happy with the judge’s decision. An executive order had been issued by Hogan to create a separate redistricting committee consisting of a Republican and a Democrat, as well as an independent who selected other panelists. Hogan claims that their map was drawn with greater transparency by citizens than politicians. However, Democrats have not allowed any votes.
The redistricting lawsuits prompted the state’s highest court to move the primary state court by three weeks earlier this month. The state’s legislative map is also being challenged in Maryland.
This delay is due to a large election year in Maryland. Maryland voters will decide all 188 state legislative seats, as well as open statewide offices like governor, attorney general, and comptroller.