Maryland high court rejects challenge to legislative districts -- Gazette.Net



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Maryland’s high court has denied several challenges to the state’s new legislative district map, declaring that the plan complies with the U.S. and state constitutions.

Challenges had been filed by several parties, including Baltimore County Sens. James Brochin (D-Dist. 42) of Towson and Delores G. Kelley (D-Dist. 10) of Randallstown, who said that the new map gave more representation to Baltimore city than its population warranted.

In an order issued Friday by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, the court denied that and two other claims, “for reasons to be stated later in a written opinion.”

An attorney for the senators made their case to the seven judges Wednesday, arguing that the districts do not show “due regard” for “natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions” by stretching District 44 across the Baltimore city limits into Baltimore County.

Assistant Attorney General Dan Friedman countered Wednesday that simply having a district that crossed county borders didn’t violate due regard. Furthermore, the new District 44 ensured ensured that the black community that straddled the county line wasn’t divided, Friedman said.

Brochin’s district, once more centrally located around Towson, now extends north to the Pennsylvania line. Kelley’s district now extends north of Owings Mills, and areas along Baltimore city’s eastern border are now part of District 44.

“We were expendable,” Brochin said Wednesday. “It’s about Baltimore city losing population, but the powers that be insisting that they maintain representation.”

Neither Brochin nor Kelley immediately returned calls for comment Friday.

One of the other complaints, filed by Christopher Bouchat of Woodbine, argued that the legislature should be organized similarly to the scheme laid out for Congress in the U.S. Constitution, with two senators from each county and all delegates elected from single-member districts that could not cross county lines.

The other complaint, filed on behalf of 22 voters from across the state, argued that the new map violated the federal Voting Rights Act by not giving enough seats to majority-black districts.

A special report, prepared for the court by retired Judge Alan M. Wilner and released in October, recommended that the judges deny all three challenges.

dleaderman@gazette.net