This story was updated at 6:15 p.m. March 25, 2022, with comments from Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones and at 7:25 p.m. to clarify that the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Maryland Constitution.
A court on Friday struck down Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan as unconstitutional, forcing the Maryland General Assembly to draw a new map.
The decision comes as Maryland prepares for a July 19 primary election for federal, state and local races. The primary date was scheduled for June 28, but the Maryland Court of Appeals delayed it because of a challenge to the state legislative redistricting plan, which determines General Assembly seats. The lawsuit over the state legislative map is still pending.
Friday’s ruling in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia says the General Assembly’s congressional map “fails constitutional muster” in various ways.
Battaglia ordered the General Assembly — which is still in session until April 11 — to create a new map by March 30. Then, a hearing on the new map will be held in court on April 1 at 9 a.m.
Battaglia’s decision came in response to two challenges — consolidated into one case — by Republican state lawmakers to the congressional map the General Assembly approved during a special session in December.
The plaintiffs alleged that the map failed in areas such as compactness and boundaries, in violation of the Maryland Constitution, resulting in a partisan imbalance that discriminates against Republican voters.
Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the map, but the Democratic-majority House and Senate in the General Assembly overrode the veto, making it the state’s new boundaries.
In a joint statement late Friday afternoon, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, both Democrats, said they are disappointed by the ruling and “believe it is not representative of the historic and long-standing legal requirements and precedent” that went into drawing the map.
“When the General Assembly approved our new congressional map in early December,” they said, “we believed then, as we do now, that the new districts upheld the letter of the law by enacting fair boundaries that reflect demographic shifts and keep as many Marylanders as possible in their current district ….”
The House vote was 97-42 in favor of overriding the veto. Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery Village) joined Republicans in voting not to override.
At the time, Acevero explained his vote in a statement he issued to Bethesda Beat:
“For me, this is not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about right or wrong. The process we have today is simply representatives picking representatives, in both Republican and Democratic states.
“We need an independent redistricting commission devoid of partisan politics, not a handpicked, multi-partisan commission such as the one proposed by Gov. Hogan. Both parties should call on the U.S. Senate to abolish or reform the filibuster and pass the Freedom to Vote Act that bans partisan gerrymandering.”
Hogan, in issuing his veto, said the new map disenfranchised voters and violated the Voting Rights Act, landmark civil rights legislation, and other federal and state laws.
The plan the General Assembly approved was created by a legislative committee with mostly Democrats. It left seven of the state’s congressional districts as favoring Democrats. For the eighth seat, currently held by a Republican, the committee’s map made the district more competitive for a Democrat to win.
Before redistricting, Montgomery County was a part of three congressional districts. District 6, represented by David Trone, and District 8, represented by Jamie Raskin, covered the majority of the county. District 3, represented by John Sarbanes, included a small portion of Montgomery County.
Under the approved map, the eastern part of Montgomery County was moved into the 4th District, meaning the county would have four representatives in Congress.
Hogan appointed a separate committee, with a more equitable representation by party, but the legislature rejected that committee’s congressional redistricting plan, which would have made the 6th District more competitive for Republicans.
Hogan issued a statement on Friday urging the Maryland General Assembly to approve the map created by his commission.
“This ruling is a monumental victory for every Marylander who cares about protecting our democracy, bringing fairness to our elections, and putting the people back in charge,” Hogan said in his statement. “It puts in plain view the partisan, secretive, and rigged process that led to the legislature’s illegal and unconstitutional maps.”