Opponents of Maryland's new congressional districts appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

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January 28, 2012

By Greg Janetka

Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland: On January 20, a group opposing Maryland’s new congressional districts filed a notice of appeal, seeking to take their case to the United States Supreme Court. Attorney Jason Torchinsky said the appeal focuses on the state law counting prisoners in their home districts, rather than where they are imprisoned. They will not be appealing other arguments in the case, including the charge that the map was gerrymandered and purposely diluted the black vote. Instead they will argue that all states should count population in the same manner for congressional reapportionment.[1]

The case was originally filed by nine Maryland citizens on November 10, 2011, charging the state with civil rights violations as a result of the newly approved congressional districts. While led by the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC on behalf of black citizens, the Maryland Republican Party threw their support behind the suit and nonprofit Legacy Foundation of Iowa, with money from Republican Congressmen Roscoe Bartlett and Andy Harris, helped to finance it.[2][3]

On December 23, a three-judge panel dismissed the suit, stating that the plaintiffs failed to meet the burden of proof for any of their claims. In regard to the allegation that the map discriminated against African-Americans by failing to create a third majority-black district, the court said the residents of the additional proposed district were not shown to be a single community of interest. The panel also said plaintiffs failed to show the map was a partisan gerrymander.[4]

If they do not succeed in appealing, opponents of the approved plan say they may start a petition drive to put the issues before voters in a fall referendum. In order to achieve that, organizers would have to collect 55,736 valid signatures, including 18,579 by May 31.[5]

Meanwhile, a case filed against the new congressional districts by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith was rejected on procedural grounds on January 10. He has a similar lawsuit pending in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. In both cases Smith argues the plan fails to create contiguous and compact voting areas. Under the approved map, Frederick County is divided into two congressional districts - something that has not happened in some 200 years.[6]

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