Judge postpones ruling on whether to accept new Maryland congressional district map, citing appeal, possible veto – Baltimore Sun

A state judge deferred ruling Friday on whether to accept or reject a redrawn map of Maryland’s congressional districts that she ordered after finding the original map was unfair to Republicans.

Judge Lynn A. Battaglia suggested at an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court hearing that it would be inappropriate for her to rule on the General Assembly-approved map for two reasons.

The first is that the state attorney general appealed her March 25 order in which she ruled the original map was too partisan and needed to be rewritten by the legislature. The appeal has left his order in limbo while it is considered by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Battaglia also said it would be premature for her to govern because the Democrats’ replacement card has yet to be signed or vetoed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

“My understanding is that the map is in the governor’s office, in his estate,” the judge told state attorneys and Republican lawmakers and voters challenging the district’s lines. “So the map was neither adopted nor opposed and, if it was vetoed, it did not have a veto waiver. In light of this, any decision I make at the subject of the map would be an advisory decision.Because if the map has not been enacted, I cannot function to approve or not to approve.

Rather than rule, Battaglia said she would gather evidence on the replacement map and present it within days as “findings of fact”. These facts could be used by the Maryland Court of Appeals to help assess the case.

Because the hearing was called specifically to accept or reject the district lines, Battaglia said, “I will likely have to issue a modified order denying approval of the map.” She said she would clarify that the decision was, in fact, a postponement and was “not on the merits.”

In his 94-page order released March 25, Battaglia said the original General Assembly map violated several provisions of Maryland’s Constitution, which decrees that districts must be “compact in shape” and respect natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions such as counties and cities. .

General Assembly Democrats said the redesigned map makes the districts more compact and meets constitutional requirements.

But Republicans said the new lines were still too partisan.

During Friday’s hearing, an attorney for the Republican plaintiffs specifically complained that the new map placed part of North Baltimore in a different district from the rest of the city. While most of Baltimore is in Congressional District 7, some—in the Roland Park and Homeland area—lies outside the city in the Baltimore County section of Congressional District 2. .

Baltimore “very easily” could have been in one district, said the attorney, Strider Dickson. He said Democratic mappers appear to have placed the northern section of Baltimore in District 2 to help Democratic candidates. District 2 is currently represented by CA Dutch Ruppersberger, a 10th-term Baltimore County Democrat.

“What seems to have happened here is that District 2 was made much more Democratic than necessary just to affect the outcome of the election in that district,” Dickson said.

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Asked by the judge about the allegation, Assistant Attorney General Andrea Trento said the decisions regarding Districts 2 and 7 were influenced by the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices.

Trento said the state wants to preserve District 7, represented by Democrat Kweisi Mfume, as a majority-minority district. In a Majority Minority District, the majority of voters are racial or ethnic minorities.

Democrats currently hold a 7-1 edge over the GOP in the state’s eight seats in the US House. In a state where Democrats hold a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage, Republicans have long complained that they would likely win more seats if the district map was fairer.

On Wednesday, the state appealed Battaglia’s order. That means the Democrats’ original card — which Republicans say put them at a greater disadvantage than the replacement card — remains in play.

A map must be finalized well before the July 19 primary, which has already been pushed back once by the Maryland Court of Appeals due to unresolved legal challenges. The election will include nominating races for all eight congressional districts as well as governor, a U.S. Senate seat and a number of state and local races. The deadline for submitting applications is approaching April 15.

Courts across the country have heard challenges related to gerrymandering, in which one party creates district lines to disadvantage the other.

A New York judge on Thursday banned the use of congressional district boundaries drawn by Democrats in that state, saying the lines were drawn with “political bias.” Republican-drawn maps have also been blocked by courts in other states, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

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