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Maryland Democrats’ court-ordered U.S. House district map would shift district of Rep. Andy Harris

General Assembly Democrats, responding to a judge’s order, unveiled a new map of Maryland’s eight U.S. House districts on Monday night that, among other changes, redraws the district of Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s lone Republican congressman whom Democrats have lined up to challenge.

The map comes three days after a judge said the initial boundaries substantially disadvantaged Republican candidates and voters.

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Facing a Wednesday deadline, the Democrats hurriedly drew new boundaries that they said “reflects” the requirements stated by the judge, Lynne A. Battaglia, in a pair of Anne Arundel Circuit Court cases brought by GOP lawmakers and voters.

The new map changes the district of Harris in a way that could help the Republican in elections. His district, which includes the Eastern Shore, would no longer extend into an area with more Democrat voters. Some other districts also appear more compact.

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The state also was seriously considering an appeal of Battaglia’s order, said the two sources, who requested anonymity because no final decision had been announced early Monday evening.

In her 94-page order, Battaglia said she agreed with expert witness testimony that Republican voters and candidates would be “substantially adversely impacted by the 2021 plan.”

The Democrats’ replacement map was introduced Monday night in the state Senate and was to be discussed during a joint hearing Tuesday morning of designated House and Senate members.

In unveiling the map, Senate Democrats approved a measure allowing it to be introduced so late in the legislative session.

GOP Sen. Justin Ready of Carroll County objected, saying: “We’re discussing introducing a map that nobody has seen except for a few people.”

But Democrats easily prevailed in the vote.

Earlier Monday, House Republicans unsuccessfully asked the General Assembly to instead use a map drawn last year by an independent commission organized by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Last year, the Republican governor appointed the panel of Republicans, Democrats and independents to draw an alternate set of proposed electoral maps, which the governor submitted to the legislature.

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The Democratic-controlled legislature rejected that map, but the House Republican Caucus, in a letter to General Assembly leaders, noted that it remained available.

“The map already exists in bill format. This should have been the plan the General Assembly adopted to begin with, but, as Nelson Mandela used to say, ‘It is never too late to do the right thing,’” the letter said.

The Republican-backed map was not used by Democratic leaders.

The state’s final map, which requires the judge’s approval, could help determine the outcome of one or more of the state’s congressional races.

Under the original, General Assembly-approved district lines, the district of Harris — a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus and Maryland’s only Republican in Congress — would have no longer included Harris’ Cockeysville neighborhood or other conservative-leaning northern Baltimore suburbs to the west of Interstate 95. It would have been extended to pull in portions of Anne Arundel County, where voters are more likely to back Democrats.

But the Democrats’ replacement map would not jump the district across the Bay Bridge into Anne Arundel County. That tweak could be welcome news for Harris. The lawmaker, whose 1st Congressional District seat has attracted a few well-funded Democrats in the July 19 primary, is seeking his seventh term after pledging a decade ago that he would serve no more than six terms if elected.

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In her order, the judge specifically referenced the district Democrats created for Harris. The judge noted that the changes meant the Republican’s Baltimore County home would have been shifted from his current district to one represented by U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Baltimore Democrat.

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Email messages to Harris’ congressional office and campaign Monday afternoon were not answered.

In her order on Friday, Battaglia said the original map violated the state constitutional requirement that legislative districts consist of adjoining territory and be compact in form, with due regard for natural boundaries and political subdivisions.

It also violated the state constitution’s free elections, free speech and equal protection clauses, she said.

The judge sent the map back to the legislature to develop a new plan by Wednesday, and scheduled a Friday hearing to review it in court.

Nationally, Maryland’s was the first congressional map drawn by Democrats to be struck down this redistricting cycle.

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Other courts have overturned maps found to be GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, infuriating Republicans and leading conservatives to push for the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the power of state courts to intervene against maps drawn by state legislatures.

Baltimore Sun reporter Bryn Stole and The Associated Press contributed to this report


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