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Judge throws out Congressional map

Congressional redistricting map
Maryland Department of Legislative Services
Congressional redistricting map

A Maryland judge has sent the General Assembly back to the drawing board to come up with a new Congressional district map.

Judge Lynne Battaglia agreed with two groups of Republicans who had sued over the map. She called it “an extreme gerrymander” that violates Maryland’s constitutional requirements to be compact and to respect the boundaries of political subdivisions.

Battaglia, a retired state appeals court judge assigned to the case, found the map “subordinates constitutional criteria to political considerations” and wrote she is giving the General Assembly “an opportunity to develop a new Congressional plan that is constitutional.”

The ruling came in two suits, one by Fair Maps Maryland, an anti-gerrymandering group headed by a former staffer for Gov. Larry Hogan, and one brought by Judicial Watch, which was pursuing the case for a group of 10 Republicans.

Del. Kathy Szeliga, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Harford counties and was a plaintiff in one of the suits, called the ruling “a victory for every Marylander.”

“On this 338th anniversary of Maryland's founding, this is a new start for our state,” she said “You know, it's a joyous Maryland Day.”

Doug Mayer, the former Hogan staffer, issued a statement for Fair Maps Maryland, calling the ruling “a win for democracy, plain and simple.”

He said the judge’s ruling “confirms what we have all known for years—Maryland is ground zero for gerrymandering, our districts and political reality reek of it, and there is abundant proof that it is occurring.”

In a statement, Gov. Hogan called the ruling “a monumental victory for every Marylander who cares about protecting our democracy, bringing fairness to our elections, and putting the people back in charge.”

He called on lawmakers to immediately adopt the map drafted by the Citizens Redistricting Commission, a bi-partisan panel he appointed. The General Assembly rejected that map on a party line vote during a special session last December.

State Senate President Bill Ferguson and Adrienne Jones, Speaker of the House of Delegates, issued a joint statement saying they were “disappointed” by the decision and that they believe the map the General Assembly adopted “upheld the letter of the law.”

They added that they “respect the diligence” Judge Battaglia put into her ruling and they will “review the court’s order that establishes brand new legal standards for the drawing of the Maryland Congressional map.”

With a little more than two weeks left in the General Assembly session, it isn’t clear how they will handle the judge’s “opportunity” to develop a new plan.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh, whose staff defended the map, said they are reviewing the decision and haven’t decided whether to appeal.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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