Lawsuit seeks to void redistricting referendum

The conservative group Judicial Watch has asked the Court of Special Appeals to overturn last November's referendum on a new congressional redistricting map for Maryland, contending the wording of the ballot question was misleading.

Backed by Del. Neil Parrott's, Judicial Watch filed an appeal of a Circuit Court decision last year upholding the wording. The plaintiffs asked the appeals court to require a new election using different ballot language.


The General Assembly approved the new map drawn up by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Democratic legislative leaders in a special session in 2011.

Republicans charge that the map, clearly intended to increase the number of Democrats in the eight-member congressional delegation from six to seven, was a case of blatant gerrymandering. A federal court agreed but ruled that was not illegal.


Led by Washington County's Parrott, Maryland Republicans succeeded in gathering enough petitions to put the new redistricting law on the 2012 ballot. However, the language approved by the secretary of state was a succinct description of the redistricting, with no mention of its controversial aspects, and voters approved the new map with 64 percent of the vote after Republicans failed to mount an effective campaign.

Judicial Watch's suit attempts to give Republicans a second chance to challenge the map, which helped lead to the defeat of Republican U.S. Rep Roscoe Bartlett by Democrat John Delaney in November.

"The ballot language gave the voters of Maryland no idea they were being asked to approve some of the most gerrymandered districts in the United States," the lawsuit says.  "The language (and therefore, the vote) was illegal and in violation of the Maryland Constitution because it failed to apprise voters of the true nature of the redistricting, and because it failed to inform voters of the broad scope of the changes to the existing congressional districts."

The suit complains that the ballot language failed to mention that 1.6 million Marylanders were put in new congressional districts by the redistricting plan. However, that leaves about 4.2 million Marylanders who were kept in the same district. The state's lawyers can be counted on to inform the court that neither figure was mentioned in the ballot language.