Maryland’s new congressional map draws first legal challenge

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  • Neil Parrott
    American politician

Maryland’s new map of congressional districts is facing its first legal challenge, a lawsuit brought by a dozen Republicans, including two who are hoping to be elected to Congress.

In the lawsuit, they argue that the new districts meander around the state in ways that divide communities in order to give Democrats an advantage at the ballot box.

They’re asking the state courts to throw out the new map and substitute a map drawn by a commission appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, at least temporarily until the General Assembly can adopt a better map.

Del. Neil Parrott, a Republican who has represented Washington County in the General Assembly since 2011, is among the organizers of the lawsuit and said it has all the hallmarks of a political gerrymander.

“This is a clear example of the politicians picking their voters and not the voters picking their politicians,” Parrott said as he announced the lawsuit outside Frederick City Hall on Wednesday afternoon.

Parrott, who is running for Congress in the 6th District — which stretches from Garrett County to the Capital Beltway — in 2022, said Marylanders need districts drawn “that are fair to the community.”

Parrott held up posters comparing the map approved by the Maryland General Assembly with one from Hogan’s Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which more neatly divides the districts and has fewer district boundaries crossing county lines.

Analyses of the two sets of maps have indicated it’s likely Maryland would again elect seven Democrats and one Republican to Congress under the approved map. The Hogan commission’s map might led to the state electing two or three Republicans.

Democratic leaders in the Maryland General Assembly defended the Congressional map as they approved it earlier this month, saying it is legally sound and makes most of the districts more compact and more competitive than they were before.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, and Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, did not immediately respond to interview requests on Wednesday.

State lawmakers were required to approve new district boundaries to account for population changes recorded in the 2020 Census.

All 12 of the plaintiffs are Republicans, a group that also includes Jeff Werner, who plans to run for Congress in the Prince George’s County-based 4th District.

They teamed with the conservative group Judicial Watch to file the lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Parrott said he hopes the case will ultimately end up in the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Five of the court’s seven judges were appointed by Hogan, including Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty, who previously served as the governor’s top lobbyist and legislative adviser.

The plaintiffs are pinning their argument on two sections of the Maryland Constitution that require that state legislative districts be compact and that all Marylanders have a right to participate in “free and frequent” elections for the state legislature.

Those sections of the Maryland Constitution make no mention of Congressional elections or districts. But the plaintiffs assert in their lawsuit that those sections also apply to elections for Congress.

Legal experts have indicated such a strategy might be difficult because the Maryland Constitution doesn’t explicitly address Congressional districts.

Another lawsuit challenging the Congressional map is expected to be filed in court on Thursday by a group aligned with Hogan, Fair Maps Maryland.

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