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Former State House candidate sues over redistricting

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A former candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates says the state's method of dividing land into voting districts violates his constitutional rights and harmed his campaign.

Christopher Eric Bouchat ran unsuccessfully last year for a delegate seat in House District 9A, which includes much of western Howard County as well as a piece of Carroll County. Bouchat lost in the Republican primary to Howard County candidates Warren Miller and Trent Kittleman, who went on to win the general election.

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In a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court of Maryland, Bouchat alleges that the state's current legislative districts "are clearly designed with the intent to manipulate election results, are discriminatory against the non-dominant political party and violate my guaranteed constitutional voting rights."

His complaint takes issue with gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts in order to enable a political party to maintain a majority, sometimes by combining disparate constituencies. The current districts were drawn in 2011 under the administration of former Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat.

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In his complaint, which lists the state of Maryland, State Administrator of Elections Linda H. Lamone and Maryland State Board of Elections Chair Bobbie S. Mack as plaintiffs, Bouchat also alleges that redistricting cost him his campaign "by creating legislative districts which distort common sense and prohibit me from securing a seat."

Bouchat, who lives in Woodbine, was the only candidate from Carroll County in District 9A. He took 22.5 percent of the Carroll County vote in the primary election, but only 7 percent of the vote in Howard County, where the majority of the district's constituents reside.

Bouchat is asking the court to prohibit elections until new districts can be drawn in a "fair and reasonable" way. He also wants the state to reimburse his campaign costs, court costs and $75,000 in other expenses.

David Nitkin, a spokesman for state Attorney General Brian Frosh, declined to comment because the case is pending.

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This is not the first time Bouchat has sued Maryland over redistricting; a 2012 lawsuit was thrown out by the state's Court of Appeals, and in May, a Carroll County judge dismissed a similar complaint on the grounds that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over state matters.

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