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Supreme Court sets date to hear Maryland congressional gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme court has set a date to hear oral arguments in Maryland’s high-profile case centered on gerrymandering in the congressional voting districts map.

The Supreme Court justices are scheduled March 26 to hear attorneys’ arguments and provide Maryland officials with guidance on how to proceed with a court-ordered redrawing of the congressional map, according to a schedule made public Friday.

In November, a panel of federal judges found that Maryland’s map for the 6th Congressional District, which includes portions of Montgomery County into Western Maryland, was drawn heavily in favor of Democrats. The case was brought by seven Republican plaintiffs who argued the map diluted their representation and violated their First Amendment rights.

While the case centered on the 6th District, the decision effectively requires Maryland officials to alter multiple congressional boundaries because of the shared lines between districts.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh asked the Supreme Court in November to provide guidance on the standards Maryland leaders need to apply when they redraw their map. The state is asking to have until Oct. 18 to draft and implement the new map in time for use in Maryland’s 2020 congressional election.

“It is our view that Supreme Court review is needed to provide guidance to the legislature in future redistricting,” said Frosh’s spokeswoman Raquel Guillory Coombs earlier this month.

The Supreme Court also scheduled to hear oral arguments for a similar gerrymandering case against Republicans in North Carolina for the same day as Maryland’s hearing, according to the schedule.

Michael B. Kimberly, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in Maryland, sees that scheduling decision as a signal that the justices intend to tackle the issue of gerrymandering after years of sidestepping it.

The high court could come out with the first limits on partisan politics in the drawing of electoral districts, but also could ultimately decide that federal judges have no role in trying to police political mapmaking.

Meanwhile, Gov. Larry Hogan has created a bipartisan commission charged with developing new 6th District boundaries to address the constitutional violations found by the judges, specifically that Democrats in Maryland drew the district in 2011 to disenfranchise Republicans. The nine-member commission includes three registered Democrats, three registered Republicans and three voters who are registered as unaffiliated with any party. The commission’s meetings are required to be open to the public and livestreamed.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.

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