Maryland’s controversial new redistricting map has been a law for less than 24 hours but it is already facing a legal challenge. According to the Washington Post, Republicans and a grass roots group are calling on the Justice Department to investigate the maps constitutionality.
Governor Martin O’Malley signed the new district map into law yesterday. He says he had district lines redrawn to reflect 2010 census numbers that showed significant growth in Maryland’s suburbs, especially among minorities.
According to the Post, the lines divide minorities among multiple districts in an effort to avoid a new congressional district from being formed that would be dominated by minorities. The most drastic change is in District 6, the states most rural, which has been held for 10-terms by the state’s senior Republican Roscoe Bartlett. Under the new map, that district will stretch nearly 200 miles from the border with West Virginia to the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County.
Republicans and critics say the new lines amount to racial gerrymandering with the ultimate goal of adding minorities considered to be reliable Democrat voters to more districts and potential picking one of the two seats the GOP holds in the House of Representatives.
“This is only going to become a bigger and bigger issue as the country grows ever more diverse,” Justin Levitt, an elections law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and who runs the Web site All About Redistricting, which tracks legal challenges in the 50 states told the Post. “The legal claim is going to be that either the groups were drawn together didn’t deserve it, or the groups that were split up didn’t deserve that, either.”
The Post reports that the main focus for the Justice Department in the appeal will be to decide if it was unconstitutional for O’Malley to split up Montgomery into three different districts because of its new status as majority-minority.
One of the state 12 Republican senators says the plan hurts the state and minority groups.
“You’re disenfranchising minorities,” Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne’s) told the Post. “Look at the census data: It says the bulk of the state’s population increase is minorities, and this map divides that growth up. That’s a good court case.”