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Government & Politics

Officials Warn of High Workload for Election Officials in Legislative Challenge Filing

Maryland’s legislative district map is being challenged at the state Court of Appeals. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. Photo illustration by Danielle E. Gaines.

Local election officials are unlikely to be ready for the already delayed July 19 primary election if the Court of Appeals strikes down Maryland’s state legislative map, according to a Monday court filing by state officials.

The latest possible date for the primary election to take place without encroaching on the November general election would be Tuesday, Aug. 16, Donna Duncan, the assistant deputy administrator for election policy at the State Board of Elections, wrote in an affidavit.

Duncan said implementing new congressional, legislative and local redistricting plans normally takes local election officials “several months” to complete.

“Redistricting on the timetable presented by this year’s election calendar was going to be extremely challenging even in the absence of any legal challenges to the newly passed maps,” Duncan wrote.

Local election officials have warned of the heavy workload for months. Election workers need finalized local, state and congressional maps to create precincts and ballots for the election, which will include both congressional and General Assembly races alongside county races.

“The reason for the difficulty is that it is only when the new districting maps are implemented that the next steps in preparing for the election can take place,” Duncan wrote.

David Garreis, the president of the Maryland Association of Election Officials, said implementing new maps and creating precincts is a time-consuming, street-by-street process that requires local election officials to ensure that every registered voter is assigned correctly.

The primary election has already been delayed once, with the Court of Appeals moving the election from June 28 to July 19. And the candidate filing deadline for the primary election is just days away, currently set for Friday.

Several challenges to the map contended that it violates the Maryland Constitution’s requirement that legislative districts be compact and respect natural and political boundaries, but a special magistrate recommended in a report last week that the redistricting plan enacted by lawmakers in January stand.

The challengers pushed back on the special magistrate’s report in filings last Friday, arguing that their claims — revolving around either individual districts or a set of districts — should stand and that the districts should be redrawn.

“Should this Court depart from the Special Magistrate’s recommendations and hold the Plan to be unconstitutional, it is unlikely that SBE and the LBEs would be able to administer the election on July 19, 2022,” Duncan wrote. “Depending on the scope of the changes ordered by the Court, at least some portion of the work already done by the LBEs would need to be redone, thereby extending the timeline by which the Plan would likely be implemented.”

Exactly how long it would take to implement a new or changed plan is unclear, Duncan wrote.