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Maryland appeals court upholds state’s legislative redistricting map

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 4/13/2022 Ovetta Wiggins
Maryland voters cast their ballots on Nov. 3, 2020, at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center in Annapolis. © Brian Witte/AP Maryland voters cast their ballots on Nov. 3, 2020, at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center in Annapolis.

Maryland’s highest court on Wednesday upheld the legislative redistricting map approved by the General Assembly last month, rejecting arguments made by Republicans that the map was unfair and gerrymandered.

The decision from the Court of Appeals ends a legal challenge that upended the state election calendar and settles uncertainty over when voters will make selections for local, state and congressional races. The order notes that the filing deadline for candidates wishing to appear on July’s primary ballot remains Friday and that the primary election, which originally was scheduled for June 28, will be held July 19.

The court agreed with a recommendation to deny the challenges to the map made earlier this month by retired judge Alan M. Wilner, who served as a special magistrate and gathered evidence on behalf of the court. Plaintiffs had argued that the map violated the state constitution because, they said, several districts were not compact and that multimember districts were not legal.

The ruling, signed by Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty, comes less than two weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) agreed to sign a new congressional map into law, ending a legal challenge over the redrawing of the state’s eight congressional districts.

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A Maryland judge had found that the original congressional map approved by the Democratic-controlled legislature was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The state attorney general filed an appeal, but ultimately dropped it after the legislature adjusted the map and Hogan and the presiding officers agreed to move forward.

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The Court of Appeals on Wednesday morning heard arguments from plaintiffs opposing Wilner’s recommendation, and from Assistant Attorney General Ann Sheridan, representing the General Assembly, who urged the court to agree with Wilner.

“If you accept the plaintiffs’ argument, you essentially would be throwing out the rule book … taking away from the legislature what rests within our constitution,” Sheridan said, arguing that the state constitution empowers the General Assembly to create a redistricting map.

One judge argued that the judiciary has a role in deciding whether the map passes constitutional muster. The ruling came hours later.

The court also ruled that candidates must take up residence in a new district by May 8. Under the state constitution, candidates for senator or delegate must live in the district that he or she wants to represent for at least six months before the general election.


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