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New Maryland map signed after Democrats drop appeal of gerrymander ruling

Democratic areas removed from lone Republican Andy Harris’ district

The eastern Maryland district of Republican Rep. Andy Harris  would be safer territory for his reelection under a map signed Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan.
The eastern Maryland district of Republican Rep. Andy Harris would be safer territory for his reelection under a map signed Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed a revised congressional map Monday that passed the Democratically controlled state legislature. 

His signature came after state Attorney General Bryan Frosh, a Democrat, dropped an appeal of state Judge Lynne A. Battaglia’s ruling last month that the original map unfairly favored Democrats.

The new map removed Democrat-leaning areas from the 1st District of Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican in the state congressional delegation. It also made changes to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s 5th District. 

Hogan had vetoed the original map, and Democrats overrode his veto.

“This is not a perfect map; there are things that could be improved. But it is miles ahead of the unconstitutional map thrown out by the court,” Hogan said Monday.

Hogan argued the new map would ensure fair elections for the next decade and urged the legislature to  create a redistricting commission that could draw maps that elected officials could not ignore. 

Maryland currently has an advisory redistricting commission, but the legislature has the final power to draw maps in the state. 

Last week, after Judge Battaglia’s ruling, the legislature passed a new map over Republican objections that it did not go far enough in making district boundaries fair to both parties. While then-President Donald Trump got 32 percent of the vote in the 2020 election, a map that splits up GOP-leaning areas has left Republicans holding just one of the state’s eight seats in the House, or 12.5 percent. 

The map Battaglia threw out could have produced a unanimous Democratic delegation. In throwing it out, she ruled the map violated a state constitutional provision that protects fair elections, which in this case included partisan balance.

The new map removes Democrat-leaning communities in the Annapolis area from Harris’ district on the Eastern Shore. The map also shuffles Hoyer’s district, removing suburbs of Washington, D.C., and shifting the seat eastward toward Fort Meade.

The Supreme Court ruled in Rucho v. Common Cause in 2019 that federal courts could not consider partisan gerrymandering claims because they were best left to the states. That has led to a wave of state court litigation over partisan gerrymandering. That included state court decisions in North Carolina and Ohio finding congressional maps violated state constitutional provisions due to gerrymandering.

Candidates seeking to run in the July 19 primary in Maryland were originally supposed to file to get on the ballot by March 22, but that deadline was shifted to April 15. 

Maryland is not the only state with a map thrown into flux by a court. 

On Thursday, a New York trial court tossed a state congressional map that favored Democrats, but that ruling was put on hold while it is appealed. The state’s new map would potentially allow Democrats to gain three congressional seats after consolidating several upstate districts. New York lost one seat to reapportionment.

In last week’s ruling, acting Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister said the state legislature could not ignore a 2014 constitutional amendment mandating that an advisory commission pass fair maps. The commission deadlocked on a final map last year, and the legislature passed its own map.

McAllister wrote that the court would give the legislature until April 11 “to enact new bipartisan supported proposed maps that meet the constitutional requirements.” 

But Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Kathy Hochul quickly appealed the decision. On Monday, an appellate judge scheduled oral arguments for later this week and said candidates could continue to seek signatures on petitions using the lines McAllister had rejected.

New York’s primary is slated for June 28.