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Elections

What’s going on with Maryland’s congressional district lines? Hint: There’s a new map in town. Here’s where we are now.

With a primary election scheduled for July 19, the boundary lines of Maryland’s eight congressional districts were in flux. A map adopted in December to account for population changes determined by the 2020 census was struck down by a judge on March 25 as too partisan. That left the Democratic state lawmakers who approved it to see if a newer map — their attempted fix — would meet judicial muster.

Complicating matters further: Maryland’s attorney general challenged the judicial order rejecting the first map.

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The partisan wrangling had created confusion among voters, elected officials and candidates.

But, on Monday, the legislative and legal issues were resolved simultaneously in an agreement between Republican Gov, Larry Hogan and lawyers for Attorney General Brian Frosh. Here are some questions and answers on where things stand now:

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What congressional district lines are in effect right now?

We are in transition. The new map — the one redrawn by the General Assembly under court order — was signed into law Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan. The governor acted as part of an agreement with lawyers for state Attorney General Brian Frosh that called for Frosh to drop an appeal challenging a court order rejecting the initial map.

According to the state attorney general’s office, the new boundaries are effective immediately regarding the 2022 election. That means election officials and candidates are scrambling to implement and adjust to the new boundaries. Many voters still will be voting in the same district they’ve had for a decade. But others will be voting this year for candidates running to represent them starting in 2023 in the voter’s new district.

Does the new map make many changes in the Baltimore area?

Yes. For example, the new boundaries split Dundalk and Essex. Dundalk will be represented by Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume in the 7th Congressional District, while Essex lands in Baltimore County Democratic Rep C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s 2nd Congressional District.

Under the new lines, Ruppersberger, if reelected, would represent much of Carroll County for the first time, while 8th Congressional District Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin would no longer represent part of Carroll. Ruppersberger’s district would also include some of Baltimore City, which is mostly Mfume’s territory. But Mfume would lose a chunk of his current district, which includes Howard County. That section will become part of the new 3rd Congressional District now occupied by Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes.

But isn’t the state appealing to try to preserve the initial map?

The state dropped its appeal under an agreement with the governor.

How might the new map affect future elections?

Democrats hold a 7-1 advantage over the GOP in the state’s eight U.S. House seats. In a state in which Democrats hold a 2-1 voter registration advantage, Republicans say they would likely win more seats if the district map were less partisan.

Maryland’s lone Republican congressman, Andy Harris, represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes the Eastern Shore, Harford County and a section of Baltimore County. Analysts say Harris would continue to have the edge under the newest map, but that Democratic Rep. David Trone would have a more challenging time getting reelected in his reconfigured Central and Western Maryland district.

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Keep up to date with Maryland politics, elections and important decisions made by federal, state and local government officials.

Could the primary election be delayed again?

It could. That’s because another redistricting case is still before the Maryland Court of Appeals. That case involves the district lines of members of the state House of Delegates and State Senate. As in the congressional case, Republicans allege General Assembly Democrats illegally manipulated the boundaries for political advantage.

On Monday, a special magistrate recommended that the GOP challenges be dismissed, but the final decision will be up to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The court set an April 13 hearing date for any exceptions filed in response to the recommendations.

The July 19 primary was already pushed back once by the Maryland Court of Appeals because court challenges were unresolved. The election will include nominating races for all eight congressional districts as well as governor, a U.S. Senate seat, and a number of state and local races.

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The candidate filing deadline is looming on April 15.


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