ANNAPOLIS — After adhering to a court order that gave Maryland lawmakers five days to realign the state’s eight congressional districts, the House of Delegates approved a new map Wednesday.
Less than an hour after the party-line vote controlled by the Democrats, Attorney General Brian Frosh filed notices to appeal that same court order before the Maryland Court of Appeals and Special Court of Appeals.
The attorney general’s office notice comes after Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynna A. Battaglia tossed out the state’s congressional map Friday. The judge sided with the registered Republicans who filed the suit and wrote that the map approved in December by the Democratic majority “fails under constitutional muster” and was “a product of extreme partisan gerrymandering.”
The judge ordered a court hearing this coming Friday to review the newly approved map.
However, with the attorney general filing a notice with the intent to appeal, it’s unclear what map would be used for the July 19 primary.
“Hypocrisy continues to reign supreme in the Maryland General Assembly,” Doug Mayer, spokesman for Fair Maps Maryland, said in a statement. “On the same day they pass court-ordered new maps, they are still clawing with their fingernails to hold on to one of the most gerrymandered maps in the history of this country. Apparently, voter suppression is a hard habit to kick.”
The approved map goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who’s supported by the anti-gerrymandering group. Mayer used to work for the governor.
Hogan has up to six days to accept the map, veto it, or just let it go without his signature.
Because lawmakers approved the map before Friday, the Democrats can override any veto from the governor before the final day of the legislative session on April 11.
Hogan has said a map drawn by an independent citizens redistricting commission composed of registered Democrats, Republicans and independents represents the best map and bipartisan structure.
Two Republican lawmakers, Dels. Kathy Szeliga and Neil Parrott, joined other registered Republicans in filing a suit against the map approved in December.
Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in the state by a 2-to-1 ratio, also hold a supermajority in the House and Senate, which approved the new map Tuesday.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) is the state’s only GOP member on Capitol Hill. The district runs north and south along the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties
Just before Wednesday’s vote, House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery County) praised the nonpartisan state Department of Legislative Services for helping to craft the new map under the guidance of the attorney general’s office.
“I think we should appreciate them for it,” Luedtke said before applause from some of his colleagues. “This map makes every effort to meet the judge’s requirements in the order. It is a map I think the people of Maryland can be proud of.”
Several Republicans disagreed.
“You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper, and it still stinks,” said Szeliga, who represents portions of Harford and Baltimore counties.
Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert County) said, “The maps are prettier, but they still violate the constitution of Maryland. They’re still engaging in extreme gerrymandering. I can only hope, and I pray, that the courts in this state will look at these maps and find the same thing again … cheating is occurring.”
Even with the nearly equal distribution in population and none of the eight congressional districts encompassing no more than three congressional districts, Del. Robert Long (R-Baltimore County) said several of his constituents “do not want to be part of Baltimore City.”
Meanwhile, a decision remains in a separate petition filed last month in the Maryland Court of Appeals by Fisher, Szeliga and Del. Nick Kipke.
The Republican lawmakers claim the state’s legislative districts approved in December violate the state constitution, take away free speech from registered GOP voters, and “are not contiguous or compact and/or do not give due regard to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.”
Besides the governor, attorney general and state comptroller, all 141 delegates and 47 senators’ seats are up for reelection this year.