“It’s something we’ve been focusing on for eight years. This is a tremendous victory for democracy and for free and fair elections in Maryland.”
By Brian Witte/Associated Press
(Annapolis, Md.) – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday approved a new congressional map with more compact districts, after a judge struck down a previous map 10 days ago for being a “product of extreme partisan gerrymandering”.
The Republican governor, who has long pushed for redistricting reform, described the new map as a “huge improvement” over the one vetoed in December by the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
“It’s something we’ve been focusing on for eight years,” Hogan told reporters after signing the legislation with the new political boundaries. “This is a tremendous victory for democracy and for free and fair elections in Maryland. When these maps came out in December, I said they were unconstitutional and violated the law.
With Maryland’s primary set for July 19, legislature leaders said voters, candidates and election officials need certainty of congressional district boundaries.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson, both Democrats, said the judge’s ruling contained new legal standards. They said the continued delays and lack of clear direction in the appeals process were not in the best interest of the public.
“It’s the General Assembly’s job to create new post-census maps that comply with the law. We think we’ve done it twice now with the Congressional map,” Jones and Ferguson said in a joint statement “In the interest of democracy, we have presented the Governor with this new map of Congress and believe it meets the brand new legal standards of the trial court judge.”
A rapidly redrawn congressional map passed on Wednesday, five days after a judge struck down one that lawmakers approved in December as unconstitutional for watering down Republican votes. It was the first map of Congress drawn by Democrats to be undone by this redistricting round.
Last week, a judge declared unconstitutional the new maps of Congress and legislative districts drawn by New York Democrats. Courts have already stepped in to block cards they found to be GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, Democrats hold a 7-1 edge over the GOP in US House seats.
The initial Democratic-approved map over Hogan’s veto made the only Republican-held district held by Rep. Andy Harris more competitive. The new map removes a portion that stretched from the east coast across the Chesapeake Bay into an area with more Democrats.
Republicans have long criticized the Congressional map with its long, twisted lines as one of the most gerrymandered in the country.
The new map for Maryland’s eight United States House seats makes the districts more compact.
In her 94-page decision, Judge Lynne Battaglia found that the previous map violated the state’s constitutional requirement that legislative districts consist of contiguous territory and have a compact shape, with due regard for boundaries. natural and political subdivisions. It also violated free elections, freedom of speech and equal protection clauses in the state constitution, she said.
Of the. Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican who sued the map, said the new map is “a much better map.”
“Now, I still think it’s a gerrymandered map, but it’s much, much better than the December one,” said Parrott, who is running for Congress in the 6th congressional district, which had been held by a Republican until the last redistricting round ten years ago.
Democratic Representative David Trone, the incumbent for Maryland’s Western District, described the new map as “a small but important step toward ending partisan gerrymandering.”
“Being disadvantaged by this process is a price I am willing to pay to move Maryland and our country forward,” Trone said in a statement. “What we need now is a national solution – and for all elected officials across the country to get back to dealing with issues that matter to those we were elected to represent.”
Meanwhile, a special magistrate filed a report on Monday dismissing legal challenges to a separate map for the state’s legislative districts. The recommendations of Alan Wilner, a retired judge, go to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state.
“We are not surprised by Judge Wilner’s reasoning in recommending that all challenges to the state’s legislative map be denied,” Jones and Ferguson said. “We have closely followed the legal standards that have been developed by the state’s highest court over the past three rounds of redistricting.”
Doug Mayer, a Fair Maps Maryland spokesman who disputes the map, said Wilner’s report “represents one person’s opinion and we strongly disagree with his conclusions.”
The Court of Appeals had already postponed the state primary for all elections from June 28 to July 19. It’s a big election year: voters will decide the 188 seats in the state legislature; statewide offices such as governor, attorney general, and comptroller; one seat in the US Senate and eight seats in Congress.