A trial over Maryland’s new state legislative map began Wednesday, with Republicans who are challenging the new political boundaries contending the map violates the Maryland Constitution.
Plaintiffs say districts have been drawn to favor Democrats who control the legislature, where the map with boundaries for the General Assembly's 188 seats was approved this year.
Strider Dickson, an attorney representing plaintiffs, cited eight districts in the middle of the state that he contends violate constitutional requirements, specifically that boundaries be compact and substantially equal in population. Dickson said districts are supposed to give due regard to natural boundaries and those of political subdivisions.
“Most of these districts are not compact," Dickson told Judge Alan Wilner. "Several do not give due regard for political subdivisions such as county lines, and one is not contiguous and does not give due regard for natural boundaries.”
On Wednesday, lawyers from the attorney general's office who are defending the map called Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, as an expert on redistricting to testify. Lichtman said he analyzed the map and compared it to other states, as well as a separate plan submitted by a panel supported by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Lichtman testified that it's not a question of whether politics are involved when lawmakers draw new maps, but whether the politics go too far to create an unfair outcome.
“Through multiple analyses, I was able to conclude that neither the enacted Senate plan nor the enacted House of Delegates plans were partisan gerrymanders," Lichtman said.
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Wilner, a retired judge appointed to the case, has indicated he plans to send a final report by early next month to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, which will rule on the case.
A separate case challenging the state's new congressional map for Maryland's eight seats in the U.S. House is currently being weighed by a judge in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. A decision could come this week, though it is expected to be appealed whatever the outcome.
Chief Judge Joseph Getty last week delayed Maryland's primary by three weeks — from June 28 to July 19 — to give the court time to address the case.
On Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Elections announced that the deadline to register to vote in the primary is now June 28. July 12 will be the deadline to request a mail-in ballot. Early voting is now scheduled to take place from July 7 to July 14.
This version corrects spelling of Strider Dickson's last name.