- Original Credit:
- Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

A Woodbine man will soon find out the fate of his challenge to the state's legislative districts.

On Tuesday, Christopher Eric Bouchat faced rigorous questioning by a panel of U.S. District Court of Maryland judges on his case against the state.

Advertisement

"I think they peppered me pretty good, which is good," said Bouchat after a hearing on a motion filed by the state to dismiss the case. The questioning, he said, gave him the opportunity to go through some of the details of his argument.

Bouchat sued Maryland in August 2015 over the state's 2012 legislative redistricting. Bouchat lives in the Carroll County portion of District 9A that includes portions of both Howard and Carroll counties, with Howard accounting for the majority of the district's population.

Bouchat, a Republican, has alleged that the district's composition disenfranchises him. As evidence, Bouchat has pointed to his loss in the 2014 Republican primary for 9A delegate. Despite being the top vote-getter in the Carroll County part of the district, Bouchat lost the primary to Howard County Republicans Warren Miller and Trent Kittleman, both of whom went on to win election to the General Assembly.

American government, Bouchat has argued, is not intended to equate to one person one vote. At the congressional level, he noted, residents in states with small populations, like Wyoming, have far more voting power than those in more heavily populated states, like New York or California, by virtue of each state being allotted two senators no matter the size of the state's population.

If state legislative districts cross county lines, he said, they go against the precedent set by the Constitution.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court of Maryland Judges Ellen L. Hollander, Paul V. Niemeyer and George L. Russell III considered a motion to dismiss the case filed by the state.

Maryland Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Darsie argued that Bouchat's case should be dismissed based on the contention that the matter has already been adjudicated.

In 2012, Darsie told the judges, Bouchat presented essentially the same case to the Maryland Court of Appeals. In that case, he noted, the state's high court decided to dismiss.

Niemeyer asked Darsie to address whether the addition of new facts in the case — Bouchat's 2014 loss — distinguishes this case from the 2012 case.

"Additional facts may go to his injury," Darsie said, "but they don't alter the preclusive effect of the prior judgment."

The judges challenged Bouchat on his notion that the election results are proof of his disenfranchisement.

"Did you get to vote?" Niemeyer asked Bouchat.

"Yes," Bouchat responded.

"Then how were you disenfranchised?" Niemeyer asked, adding, "I'm not sure you have [a] right, as a candidate, to win an election."

Advertisement

Bouchat responded that his campaign for office proves that voters in minority portions of districts are denied representation.

Russell asked whether Bouchat could point to anything in the system that has changed since the 2012 Court of Appeals decision.

Nothing has changed, Bouchat said, but the 2014 election has provided an example of how voters in minority portions of districts in the state are disenfranchised.

Russell and Niemeyer questioned the legitimacy of that argument.

"Had you won the election, would you have found that the system is constitutional?" Russell asked.

"You are suggesting that anybody who voted for the person who loses is disenfranchised," Niemeyer said. "The Constitution doesn't give you the right to elect someone, it gives you the right to vote."

The judges will issue a decision on the motion for dismissal at a later date. Should they decide against him, Bouchat said that he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

410-857-3315

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement