Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to reporters at the State House in Annapolis on Dec. 9 while holding a folder showing his veto of a state redistricting bill sent to his desk. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to reporters at the State House in Annapolis on Dec. 9 while holding a folder showing his veto of a state redistricting bill sent to his desk. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge on Friday tossed out Maryland’s congressional map and ordered the Democrat-controlled legislature to approve one in the next five days.

Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia wrote in an opinion the legislature’s plan approved in a special session in December “fails under constitutional muster” and “a product of extreme partisan gerrymandering.”

“The limitation of the undue extension of power by any branch of government must be exercised to ensure that the will of the people is heard, no matter under which political placard those governing reside,” the judge wrote. “The 2021 Congressional Plan is unconstitutional and subverts that will of those governed.”

Battaglia ruled the legislature must work on a new map and complete it by Wednesday. The court will hold a hearing to review the map April 1, approximately 10 days before the last day of the legislative session.

Several Republican voters, including Dels. Kathy Szlegia and Neil Parrot, filed a lawsuit in December to challenge the eight congressional districts that violated free speech and suppressed Republican constituents.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland by a 2-to-1 ratio.

The ruling came coincidentally on the anniversary of the day Maryland was established as a state on March 25, 1634.

“This decision is a victory for every Marylander. It is a victory for the representative democracy our founders envisioned,” Szelgia, who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, said in a statement. “On this 338th anniversary of Maryland’s founding, this decision is a rebirth for our state.”

Some nonprofit organizations and voting rights groups also applauded the decision.

“The congressional map belongs to the voters of Maryland, not the politicians,” Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said in a statement. “It’s time for the General Assembly to do right by the voters and lead a fair, open and transparent process that results in fair maps.”

Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones released a joint statement defending the vote in December and the legislature’s work that included an advisory commission which held some in-person and virtual public hearings throughout the state.

“We believed then, as we do now, that the new districts upheld the letter of the law by enacting fair boundaries that reflect demographic shifts and keep as many Marylanders as possible in their current district in a congressional map that was approved by more than 64% of the voters,” the Democratic leaders said.

During a four-day special session in December, the General Assembly sought to redraw new boundaries where seven of the eight federal lawmakers in Congress are Democrats. The process done every decade seeks to manage population shifts based on U.S. Census data.

The Democratic majority voted for the 1st Congressional District overseen by the state’s only GOP member, Rep. Andy Harris, to stretch across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into portions of Democratic neighborhoods in Anne Arundel County. The district runs north and south with a heavily Republic influence along the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.

The map shifted Maryland’s state capital of Annapolis in Anne Arundel into the 4th Congressional District, which was vacated once Rep. Anthony Brown declared his bid for Maryland attorney general.

The population data shows the district that includes a portion of Prince George’s County would house the state’s largest Black population with 419,596 out of the total 733,616 residents.

Gov. Larry Hogan called the judge’s ruling “a monumental victory” and urged the General Assembly to approve a map drawn by a citizen advisory committee. Democrats have said the committee are members the governor appointed.

“This is a historic victory in our fight to clean up the political process in our state and ensure that the voices of the people we are elected to serve are finally heard,” he said.

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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