Maryland lawmakers to vote on new congressional map

FILE - Amanda SubbaRao holds a sign calling for "Fair Maps" during a rally in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 8, 2021. Maryland lawmakers who produced the first congressional map drawn by Democrats to be struck down this redistricting cycle will vote on a new map this week, a spokesman for a legislative leader said Monday, March 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, file) (Brian Witte, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland lawmakers who produced the first congressional map drawn by Democrats to be struck down this redistricting cycle will vote on a new map this week, leading lawmakers announced Monday.

Democrats went back to the drawing board over the weekend after Judge Lynne Battaglia ruled Friday that the map lawmakers approved in December is a “product of extreme partisan gerrymandering.”

The legislation with the new map will get a hearing Tuesday morning before lawmakers.

“This legislation is contingent on the loss of an appeal and is expected to be on the Governor’s desk this week,” Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones said in a news release. “However, we worked expeditiously to ensure that the redistricting process was not further delayed and that the map presented reflects the new requirements as set forth by Judge Battaglia.”

Battaglia said the map violated the state constitutional requirement that legislative districts consist of adjoining territory and be compact in form, with due regard for natural boundaries and political subdivisions. It also violated the state constitution's free elections, free speech and equal protection clauses, she said.

The judge sent the map back to the legislature to develop a new plan by Wednesday, and scheduled a Friday hearing to review it in court.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, yet Democrats hold a 7-1 advantage over Republicans in the state’s U.S. House delegation. Opponents of the map approved in December said it made the state's lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris, vulnerable.

The new map, which was made public Monday night, removes a previous change to Harris' district that would have added more Democrats to it by stretching the 1st Congressional District across the Chesapeake Bay into Anne Arundel County.

Other courts have overturned maps found to be GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, infuriating Republicans and leading conservatives to push for the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the power of state courts to intervene against maps drawn by state legislatures.

The initial map was approved late last year by a panel mostly of state lawmakers, including four Democrats and two Republicans, and approved by the General Assembly. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it, but the Democrats who control the legislature overrode his veto. GOP lawmakers then filed a lawsuit.

Hogan, a rare two-term Republican in a heavily Democratic state during a redistricting year, praised the judge's ruling. He had issued an executive order creating a separate redistricting panel comprised of a Republican, a Democrat and an independent who chose other panelists. Hogan says their map was created with more transparency by citizens rather than politicians, but Democrats haven't allowed a vote on it.

Earlier this month, the state’s highest court moved the state’s primary by three weeks due to the redistricting lawsuits, from June 28 to July 19. Maryland’s state legislative map also is being challenged.

The delay comes in a big election year in Maryland, where voters will decide all 188 seats in the state legislature, open statewide offices such as governor, attorney general and comptroller, a U.S. Senate seat and all eight congressional seats.