Court suggests settlement talks in Maryland congressional redistricting case

A federal court on Thursday suggested settlement discussions be pursued in a case in which Republican voters in Maryland's 6th Congressional District want to toss out a map they say was unfairly crafted to benefit Democrats.

The three-judge panel made the recommendation during a hearing on the case in Baltimore, according to the state attorney general's office, which is defending the current district boundaries.

The options for U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Bredar and two other federal judges could include having a nonpartisan redistricting commission redraw the boundaries, asking lawmakers to redo the map, or preserving the current district lines.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has sided with the GOP voters and called for a nonpartisan commission.

An attorney general's spokesperson said afterward that the office does not comment on ongoing litigation. Michael Kimberly, an attorney for the voters, did not immediately respond to an email inquiry.

Map: Maryland congressional districts »

The voters contend that Democrats in Annapolis violated their First Amendment rights in the 2011 redistricting process by punishing them for their GOP voting history.

In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the voters' request to reject the district map, returning the case to U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The high court's decision was made on technical grounds and did not address the larger question: Just how far may mapmakers of either party go in pursuit of political advantage?

Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment — a decision from the bench made without a trial.

The 6th District stretches from the liberal Washington suburbs of Montgomery County to conservative Western Maryland. The lines were redrawn after the 2010 census.

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