Trial begins on new Maryland legislative maps

A lawsuit over Maryland’s new state legislative map began on Wednesday, with Republicans challenging the new political boundaries claiming the map violates Maryland’s Constitution.

The plaintiffs say the districts were drawn to favor Democrats who control the legislature, where the map with the boundaries of the 188 General Assembly seats was approved this year.

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Strider Dixon, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, cited eight districts in the middle of the state that he says violate constitutional requirements, specifically that boundaries be compact and substantially equal in population. Dixon also said districts are expected to give due consideration to natural boundaries and those of political subdivisions.

“Most of these districts are not compact,” Dixon told Judge Alan Wilner. “Several do not give due consideration to political subdivisions such as county boundaries, and one is not contiguous and does not give due consideration to natural boundaries.”

On Wednesday, attorneys for the attorney general’s office defending the map called Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, as a redistricting expert to testify. Lichtman said he analyzed the map and compared it to other states, as well as a separate map submitted by a panel backed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Lichtman testified that it’s not about whether politics is involved when lawmakers draw new maps, but whether politics goes too far to create an unfair outcome.

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“Through multiple analyses, I was able to conclude that neither the enacted Senate plan nor the enacted House of Delegates plans were partisan gerrymanders,” Lichtman said.

Wilner, a retired judge appointed to the case, said he plans to send a final report early next month to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which will rule. on the case.

A separate case challenging Congress’s new map of the state for Maryland’s eight seats in the U.S. House is currently being heard by Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge. A decision could come this week, although it is expected to be appealed regardless of the outcome.

Chief Justice Joseph Getty last week delayed Maryland’s primary by three weeks – from June 28 to July 19 – to give the court time to deal with the case.

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On Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Elections announced that the deadline to register to vote in the primary was now June 28. July 12 will be the deadline to request an absentee ballot. Early voting is now scheduled for July 7-14.

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