Maryland judge declares new map for Congress unconstitutional

Friday's ruling by a Maryland judge declared that the new state congressional map was unconstitutional. This is the first time a court has ruled against a Democratic-drawn map.

Maryland judge declares new map for Congress unconstitutional

Courts have blocked maps that they found to be GOP-gerrymanders in North Carolina and Ohio. This angered Republicans and led conservatives to demand that the U.S. Supreme Court limit the power state courts have to overturn maps drawn in state legislatures.

Judge Lynne Battaglia gave Wednesday deadline to state legislators to create a new congressional map plan.

After a trial in which Republican legislators argued that Maryland's congressional map, approved in December by the General Assembly, violated the constitution, Battaglia, a retired Judge from the state's highest Court, issued the ruling. He was assigned the case to Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

She concluded that the testimony in the case supported her argument that "the voice and efficacy of Republican voters was diminished and that their right to vote was compromised."

"The restriction of undue extensions of power by any branch or government must be exercised in order to ensure that the will and voice of the people are heard, regardless of where they reside on the political placards. Battaglia stated that the 2021 Congressional Plan was unconstitutional and subverts the will of those governed.

Maryland's legal community has a long tradition with Battaglia. From 2001 to 2016, she was a member the highest court of Maryland. From 1993 to 2001, she was Maryland's U.S. Attorney. From 1991 to 1993, she was also chief of staff for former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski (a Democrat).

A state appeal is almost certain. Raquel Coombs spokeswoman for attorney general and said that the office is currently reviewing the decision.

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne, are both Democrats. They were also members of the panel that approved the map's first approval.

Ferguson and Jones jointly stated that they respect the determination of the trial judge and will review the court order that sets new legal standards for drawing the Maryland Congressional map.

Maryland is home to a large number of registered Democrats, 2-1, and Democrats hold strong majorities in both chambers. The GOP has long criticised the map for being one of the most gerrymandered maps in the country.

"Judge Battaglia’s ruling confirms the things we all know for years -- Maryland ground zero for gerrymandering. Our districts and political reality reek it, and there are abundant proofs that it is happening," stated Doug Mayer, Fair Maps Maryland spokesperson.

This ruling is unusual because Maryland has a Republican governor during a redistricting season. Gov. Larry Hogan, a long-time advocate for reforms in the way the state draws its political boundaries, established a separate commission to create maps for the state's congressional and legislative seats. This was to remove politicians from the process of drawing the districts.

Hogan submitted maps to the General Assembly. However, the legislature proceeded with maps that were approved by a separate panel, which included four Democrats and two Republicans.

Hogan vetoed December's map that was approved by the legislature, saying it made "a mockery" of democracy. The legislature overrode his veto on the same day. The governor urged lawmakers to approve the map that he had supported by calling for their approval after the ruling of the judge.

Hogan stated in a statement that "This is a historic milestone in the fight to clean-up the political process in the state, and ensure the voices of people we are elected for are finally heard."

Hogan has appointed all of the current judges to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Chief Judge Joseph Getty delayed the state’s primary from June 28, to July 19, because courts are weighing challenges to both the new legislative map and the congressional map.

Last week, a witness representing Maryland Republicans testified at trial that Democrats were influenced by partisan considerations when they drew the map. The Democrats hold a 7-1 lead over the GOP in the eight U.S. House seat. The new map made it more possible for a Democrat in the district currently held by Andy Harris, a single Republican Representative.

Two lawsuits were brought to the trial. The first was brought by Fair Maps Maryland, a group consisting of Republican state legislators. Judicial Watch, a national conservative activist group, brought the other.


 

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