A state court in Maryland has struck down the Democratic-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander, ordering the state legislature to redraw the lines for the 2022 election.
The new districts — which were drawn by the Democratic-dominated legislature and passed over the veto of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan — could result in an 8-0 sweep for Democrats in the state in blue-leaning years. Seven districts in the state are solidly Democratic, while the lone Republican-held district in Maryland, the Eastern Shore seat currently occupied by GOP Rep. Andy Harris, was converted from a Republican vote sink into a hypercompetitive district. President Joe Biden carried the new version by less than a percentage point in 2020.
“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,” Judge Lynne Battaglia, a senior judge serving on the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, wrote in her opinion. “The 2021 Congressional Plan is unconstitutional, and subverts the will of those governed.”
Her opinion could — and likely will — be appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. In the meantime, Battaglia ordered that the state legislature redraw the maps by March 30, and she scheduled a hearing about the redrawn maps on April 1.
Battaglia had previously served on the state’s highest court for 15 years and retired in 2016. She was nominated to her role by then-Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening.
What comes next: The ruling came in a combined decision stemming from a pair of suits, including a challenge to the maps backed by the group Fair Maps Maryland, an anti-gerrymandering group led by a former Hogan adviser.
“Not only did the judge rule in favor of our plaintiffs, but she confirmed that there is Maryland state law that applies to partisan gerrymandering, something the Attorney General’s office vigorously argued against,” the group wrote in an unsigned statement released shortly after the ruling was announced. “This would be massive news in its own right but combined with a favorable ruling, it’s a political earthquake.”
The Court of Appeals had already moved the state’s primary from late June to mid-July in an order earlier this month in a case surrounding a challenge to the state’s legislative lines.