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Election 2022 Government & Politics

Republican Lawmakers’ Challenges to New Congressional Maps Survive Motions to Dismiss

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court building. Photo by Bennett Leckrone.

The majority of claims in a pair of lawsuits challenging Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan will be allowed to move forward, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia, who is hearing the case in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, considered motions to dismiss claims in the two cases last week and on Wednesday.

In an order late Wednesday, she dismissed one claim that the congressional district map, passed by the General Assembly in December, violates a constitutional requirement that lawmakers “pass laws necessary for the preservation of the purity of elections.”

Plaintiffs in that lawsuit, brought by Republican voters in all eight of Maryland’s congressional districts, include two Republican state delegates: Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford counties) and Del. Christopher T. Adams (R-Lower Shore).

The rest of the claims in the case — and another — were allowed to move forward.

A second lawsuit challenging the new congressional map was filed by Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington) and the national conservative group Judicial Watch.

On Wednesday, Battaglia heard arguments on whether to dismiss that case.

Both lawsuits claim that the congressional district map approved by Democratic lawmakers amounts to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

The redistricting plan would reshape the 1st District — currently represented by Maryland’s lone congressional Republican, U.S. Rep Andrew P. Harris — by stretching across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to include parts of central Anne Arundel County with the Eastern Shore. The new district no longer includes parts of northern Maryland, including part of Baltimore County. The changes are likely to make the district more competitive for Democrats in future elections.

Assistant Attorney General Andrea Trento argued Wednesday that, by entrusting the “political branches” of government with redistricting, the framers of the Maryland Constitution expected redistricting to be a partisan process.

He made similar arguments in a hearing over the state’s motion to dismiss the Szeliga case last week.

Although the Szeliga and Parrott cases have been consolidated and make some of the same claims, the case filed by Parrott and Judicial Watch also claims that Maryland’s rules for drawing legislative districts — that they be compact and respect natural and political boundaries — should also extend to congressional boundaries.

Robert Popper, an attorney for Judicial Watch, said Wednesday that the standard should be used to determine whether gerrymandering took place in both legislative and congressional maps.

Trento argued that if Battaglia agreed with that argument, the decision would essentially amount to a constitutional amendment.

For now, Battaglia has allowed the claim to move forward.

The redistricting challenge is expected to move forward quickly, as elections officials prepare for the 2022 primaries.

Battaglia previously said that, if a trial is necessary, it would begin March 15; the Court of Appeals earlier this month moved the candidate filing deadline to March 22 because of challenges to both the congressional and legislative maps. The June 28 primary date remains unchanged.

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report.


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Republican Lawmakers’ Challenges to New Congressional Maps Survive Motions to Dismiss