With a primary election scheduled for July 19, the boundary lines of Maryland’s eight congressional districts are in flux. A map adopted in December to account for population changes determined by the 2020 census was struck down by a judge on March 25 as too partisan. Now, the Democratic state lawmakers who approved it are waiting to see if a newer map — their attempted fix — will meet judicial muster.
Even if it is approved in court, their substitute map may be vetoed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, but Democrats hold veto-proof majorities in the state House of Delegates and Senate and could override him.
Complicating matters further: Maryland’s attorney general has challenged the judicial order rejecting the first map. If that appeal is successful, the original map — which Republicans dislike even more than the second one — would be back on the table.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Hogan declined to say whether he’d veto the new map.
“I’m going to try to convince them to drop the appeal, and then maybe we can move forward,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash.
The simultaneous legislative debates and legal wrangling have created confusion among voters, elected officials and candidates just two weeks before an April 15 candidate filing deadline. Here are some questions and answers on where things stand:
As of now, the boundaries are the same as they’ve been for the past decade. Unless you’ve moved, the person who represents you in the U.S. House remains unchanged, as does your congressional district.
There will be new districts in effect before the July 19 primary, but we don’t yet know what the new map will look like or when it will be finalized. District lines must be adjusted every 10 years after the U.S. census. The Democratic-controlled General Assembly made its first attempt at a new map in December, but that version was challenged by Republicans and rejected on March 25 by Judge Lynne Battaglia in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court as too partisan. The legislature then redrew the map and sent it to Battaglia, who declined on Friday to accept or reject it. She said she couldn’t rule on the map, in part, because Hogan had not yet vetoed or signed it.
Yes. For example, Dundalk and Essex would be split. Dundalk would be represented by Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume in the 7th Congressional District, while Essex would land in Baltimore County Democratic Rep C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s 2nd Congressional District.
Under the new lines, Ruppersberger would represent much of Carroll County for the first time, while 8th Congressional District Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin would no longer represent part of Carroll. Ruppersberger’s district would also include some of Baltimore City, which would mostly be Mfume’s territory. But Mfume would lose a chunk of his current district, which includes Howard County. That section would become part of Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes’ new 3rd Congressional District.
Yes, and that could slow the process of straightening this out. The appeals court had not issued a briefing schedule or timeline as of Thursday evening. While the state has filed no motion for a stay to temporarily halt the judge’s ruling, Battaglia could not make any boundaries final if an appeal was ongoing.
The new map will take effect if the state’s appeal is dismissed, or the appeals court upholds Battaglia’s March 25 ruling. Democrats would also need to override any veto of the map by the governor.
Battaglia said Friday that she will issue “findings of fact” to help the appeals court evaluate the case.
Democrats hold a 7-1 advantage over the GOP in the state’s eight U.S. House seats. In a state in which Democrats hold a 2-1 voter registration advantage, Republicans say they would likely win more seats if the district map were fairer.
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Maryland’s lone Republican congressman, Andy Harris, represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes the Eastern Shore. Analysts say Harris would continue to have the edge under the newest map, but that Democratic Rep. David Trone would have a more challenging time getting reelected in his reconfigured Central and Western Maryland district.
“My race just got a lot more competitive,” Trone said Thursday in an email to supporters. “We don’t yet have confirmation of what the Sixth District will look like in this election, but we know that we’ll have much less of an advantage than we did two years ago.”
The Circuit Court concluded that Attorney General Brian Frosh had the right to appeal directly to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest state court. Frosh and the office’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal Wednesday with that court. They also filed with a second tribunal — the Maryland Special Court of Appeals — to be certain their appeal is heard in the proper place.
Frosh’s office said Thursday that it would be premature to speculate on the state’s argument before filing its brief. But Battaglia’s ruling hinged in part on an interpretation of the Maryland Constitution that the state may challenge.
A 1972 constitutional amendment laid out criteria for Maryland’s legislative districts, including that they must be “compact in form” and respect natural boundaries and the borders of political subdivisions like counties and cities. In defending the first map, lawyers for Frosh argued that the constitution doesn’t specifically apply the same rules for congressional districts. But the Republican plaintiffs, including elected officials and voters, said the constitution’s allusion to “legislative districts” was meant to be generic and to cover congressional districts as well as state legislative maps.
It could. The July 19 primary was already pushed back once by the Maryland Court of Appeals because court challenges were still unresolved. The election will include nominating races for all eight congressional districts as well as governor, a U.S. Senate seat, and a number of state and local races. The candidate filing deadline is looming on April 15.
Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.