A Maryland state judge rejected the congressional districting map proposed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature on Friday and ordered that it submit a substitute by March 30.
Circuit Court Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia wrote a scathing opinion that declared the legislature had engaged in “extreme partisan gerrymandering” in drawing its proposed map. The legislature’s map was passed last year and was vetoed by Republican Governor Larry Hogan. The legislature then voted to override the veto.
Battaglia wrote in her opinion that the legislature’s map is an “outlier” that places political considerations above constitutional criteria. She wrote that the plan violated the Maryland and U.S. Constitutions, stating that the “voice of Republican voters was diluted.”
When the current controversy is resolved, the mapping that is approved will remain in place until the next U.S. Census in 2030.
Maryland has been known for many years for its gerrymandering in favor of Democrats. Republicans are outnumbered in the state by about two to one, but the last approved Congressional districting map there gave Democrats a 7-1 advantage. During this latest round of redistricting, the state’s Democrats decided to redraw even the single GOP district out of existence.
Although Democrats are virtually certain to appeal the ruling, recent appointments by Hogan to the state appeals courts and Maryland Supreme Court likely mean the ruling is relatively safe to stand up under appellate review.
Hogan has now reaffirmed his call for the Maryland legislature to approve the district maps created by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Given the ruling from last week, the legislature may act quickly to comply with last week’s order and to preserve the integrity of the primary elections scheduled for July 19.
That outcome could result in the addition of one more GOP seat and subtraction of one Democratic seat in the House from Maryland in this year’s crucial midterms. Coming from a deep blue state like Maryland, that would bode well for the prospects of a 2022 “red wave.”