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Redistricting case places Maryland in ‘uncharted territory’ on primary election date, state lawyer says

A court challenge to Maryland’s new state legislative district map has placed the state in “uncharted territory” on whether the primary election can be held June 28 as scheduled, a state lawyer said Thursday.

State Board of Elections officials “are losing sleep right now thinking about how they’re going to deal with whatever emerges” from the case, Assistant Attorney General Andrea Trento said at a Maryland Court of Appeals hearing.

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Three Republican state delegates and others are challenging the legality of the General Assembly-approved map of district boundaries for delegates and state senators. The three delegates say the maps were unfairly drawn to favor Democrats and don’t abide by Maryland constitutional guidelines.

During the livestreamed hearing, Alan M. Wilner — a retired judge appointed to the case — presented a schedule for hearing arguments. He said he hopes to hold an evidentiary hearing in late March and to file a final report by April 4 with the appeals court, which would then rule.

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That timeline would place the primary election date in limbo if the court were to order significant changes to the map, Trento said.

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“So we’ve got a situation where we’re in uncharted territory, and the Board of Elections is telling me that they don’t think it’s possible,” Trento said. “We just need to get it done as quickly as possible and deal with the consequences after that.”

Wilner asked Trento directly: “When does the State Board of Elections need the Court of Appeals decision if the election is not to be postponed?”

“That’s a fair question, your honor,” the lawyer replied. “And it’s one that’s impossible to answer because we don’t know what the scope of the changes are going to be. The normal process for implementing a new map — it takes months.”

The case was filed in September by state Dels. Mark Fisher of Calvert County, Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County and Kathy Szeliga, who represents parts of Harford and Baltimore counties. Other challenges, including another from state lawmakers, are being heard simultaneously.

Democratic leaders maintained during the General Assembly’s debate that the new map is fair and in compliance with requirements in the state’s constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

Maryland Republicans also filed a legal challenge to the new map of the state’s congressional districts. The map appears to cement Democratic control of seven of the eight congressional seats and likely gives Democratic challengers a better shot at knocking off the lone Republican, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris.

Judge Lynne A. Battaglia, a retired state appeals court judge assigned to that case, is weighing whether to allow the challenge to go forward.

For the record

This article has been corrected with the proper spelling of Andrea Trento's last name. The Sun regrets the error.


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