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Elections Chief on 2022 Redistricting Timeline: ‘It’s Going to be Ugly’

Maryland’s June primary in gubernatorial election years will prove especially problematic in 2022 because that’s also the year state lawmakers and the governor will draw new congressional and legislative district boundaries, state elections officials said Wednesday.

The late June 2022 primary will require a late February filing date for candidates, meaning the deadline will likely come before the legislature and governor sign off on new maps – and certainly before any legal challenges to the district lines are resolved.

“It’s going to be ugly,” Maryland Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone told the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee during an Annapolis briefing.

Redistricting and its impact on the 2022 election timeline was one of many issues related to state elections that came up before the Senate panel.

Another topic aired Wednesday that could affect the administration and timetable of elections in Maryland is proposed legislation that would change the way candidates for governor select their running mates.

But redistricting appears likely to produce the most chaos that election cycle – or at a minimum, an unprecedented and confusing compression of the election timeline.

At best, redistricting is messy and overtly political. But even though 2022 will be the third straight gubernatorial election in Maryland with a primary held in June – it previously had been held in September for decades – this will be the first to be held in the immediate aftermath of the redistricting process.

The last time legislative and congressional district lines were changed following the decennial U.S. Census, in 2012, the state had two full years before the next gubernatorial election. Election officials will not have that luxury after the 2020 Census results are released in 2021.

“Will there be enough time” to properly administer a primary election? state Sen. Jason C. Gallion (R-Harford) wondered.

Jared DeMarinis, director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance at the Maryland State Board of Elections, laid out how it would likely work.

Under state law, he said, a candidate for a legislative seat must live in the district where she plans to run a minimum of six months before a general election. So candidates can file to run for state Senate or House seats by the late February deadline even if they don’t live within the district or if the district boundaries haven’t been determined.

If, when the lines are finalized, a candidate finds herself living outside the district where she’s running, she must move into the district by early May to remain on the ballot. If that doesn’t happen, the candidate can be removed from the ballot.

How long lawsuits seeking to overturn the state’s new congressional and legislative maps will take is another wild card. Lamone noted that the state faced about a dozen lawsuits after the last round of redistricting; challenges to the state legislative map usually go to the Maryland Court of Appeals; challenges to the congressional plan usually wind up in federal court, where the timetable is inevitably slower.

The issue of residency isn’t quite as delicate for candidates for Congress – at least not legally. They are merely required to be residents of the state where they’re running, no matter what seat they’re seeking.

Meanwhile, the concept of changing how gubernatorial contenders select their candidates for lieutenant governor has political appeal – but it would also change certain aspects of how the state administers elections.

Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Chairman Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) and House Environment and Transportation Chairman Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) are expected to introduce legislation next session that would enable gubernatorial candidates to wait to pick their running mates until after they’ve secured their parties’ nominations.

Under the current system, candidates for governor must choose a running mate by the candidate filing deadline, and the two appear on the primary ballot together. By letting the gubernatorial candidates to wait until after they’ve won their party primaries to ask someone to join their ticket, they’ve expanded the universe of potential running mates to include people they’ve defeated in the primary.

“Maybe one of the losing candidates would make a grand lieutenant governor,” Pinsky said, noting that former state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), a runner-up in the Democratic primary for governor last year, would have made a good running mate for the gubernatorial nominee, former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous.

DeMarinis compared that form of selection to a presidential nominee choosing a vice presidential candidate when she has effectively secured the party’s nomination.

“This is a scenario that’s very familiar with the general public and has been utilized in other states as well,” he said.

To change the selection process, voters must pass a constitutional amendment. To do so in time for the 2022 election, lawmakers would have to pass legislation next year authorizing a ballot question for the 2020 general election. Assuming that passed, more legislation would be required in 2021.

A new system for appointing lieutenant governor candidates would impact some of the election year timeline and would require some changes to the state’s public financing program, to campaign finance laws regarding joint campaign committees, and to laws governing vacancies when a candidate dies or drops out of the gubernatorial race, elections officials said.

But while the argument for adopting a post-primary timeline for choosing candidates for lieutenant governor may have some political saliency, it could also make the administration of elections easier, the officials said.

“This does ease some administrative burdens for us,” DeMarinis said.

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Elections Chief on 2022 Redistricting Timeline: ‘It’s Going to be Ugly’