Groups, lawmakers challenge state legislative redistricting map -- Gazette.Net



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Four lawsuits challenging Maryland’s decennial legislative redistricting map have been filed in the Court of Appeals, according to public records.

The map, which was presented by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on the first day of the regular session, became law in February after the General Assembly failed to adopt one of five alternative plans presented by House lawmakers. No alternative plans were presented in the Senate.

The deadline to file challenges to the map was Tuesday.

Among the petitioners who filed suit are two state senators, three delegates and three Carroll County commissioners.

Raquel Guillory, O’Malley’s spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the legal challenges were not unexpected and the governor believes the map follows the letter and spirit of the law.

“We’re confident the map will stand up to all legal challenges,” she said.

The Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee held 12 public hearings for redistricting input and took public comments into consideration, tweaking parts of the original map.

Still, O’Malley’s map drew fire from both sides of the aisle after its introduction Jan. 11.

Democrats said the plan disenfranchised minority voters because it does not establish a Hispanic-majority district in Montgomery County and didn’t create enough majority-black districts.

Republicans said the map showed little regard for city and county boundaries, and GOP voters were so tightly packed into districts that they would be unable to gain more seats in the General Assembly.

The four lawsuits will be ushered through the legal process by retired Court of Appeals Judge Alan M. Wilner, who will consider the arguments of the petitioners and hold hearings before filing a final report to the state’s high court. The report, which is advisory, will be treated like any other request for a hearing by the Court of Appeals.

Attorneys involved in the cases said an initial scheduling hearing could be set for May 15.

The lawsuits breakdown like this:

— The first lawsuit was filed April 26 by Christopher Eric Bouchat. Bouchat argues that the map should be considered unconstitutional because the governor and General Assembly can create single-, double- and triple-member House of Delegate districts. He asks the court to create a new map that would include: two senators in every county and Baltimore city; single-member delegate districts; and districts that do not cross any county line.

— Sens. Delores Kelley (D-Dist. 10) of Randallstown and James Brochin (D-Dist. 42) of Towson filed suit May 1, arguing that the redrawn districts dilute the power of voters in Baltimore County by moving district boundaries within the county, as a result of creating an additional district in Baltimore City.

— The third lawsuit was filed by three Carroll County commissioners — J. Douglas Howard, David H. Roush and Richard S. Rothschild — and county Dels. Susan W. Krebs, Nancy R. Stocksdale and Donald B. Elliott. The group argues that the new map unnecessarily puts communities such as Sykesville and Eldersburg in different districts and creates cross-county districts that dilute Carroll County votes.

— The fourth lawsuit was filed by 22 individuals who live in 12 of the redrawn districts. The group challenges the map on a number of points, including: whether the districts are compact in formation, violate the Voting Rights Act, give due regard to county and municipality boundaries and represent equal populations. “When you look at the entire legislative plan, it looks like there are a couple groups of people who are not treated fairly,” said attorney C. Paul Smith. The disenfranchised groups include blacks and Republicans, Smith said.

In 2002, the Court of Appeals redrew Republican Gov. Parris Glendening’s legislative map, citing too many divisions between counties.

dgaines@gazette.net