ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s highest court on Tuesday moved the state’s primary from June 28 to July 19, as courts weigh challenges to the state’s new legislative map as well as Maryland’s congressional map.
The Court of Appeals also set a new candidate filing deadline for April 15. The court issued the order in the matter of a legal challenge to the map of political boundaries for the 188 seats in the General Assembly.
Separately, a trial began Tuesday over allegations that Maryland’s congressional map has been illegally drawn to benefit Democrats.
In that case, a witness for Maryland Republicans testified that partisan considerations took over when Democrats who control Maryland’s legislature approved the new congressional map “in a way that disadvantages Republicans.”
Sean Trende, an elections analyst at RealClearPolitics, testified that the Maryland map approved in December is “a gross outlier” in his analysis of thousands of potential map simulations.
“It’s apparent that these districts were drawn with partisanship as a predominate intent to the exclusion of traditional redistricting criteria,” Trende said.
Trende said the map lacks compactness of districts, which is one of those traditional criteria, and all eight districts were won by President Joe Biden in 2020.
He also said Democrats “are almost guaranteed to have seven districts and have a great shot at winning that eighth district.” Democrats now hold a 7-1 advantage in Maryland’s U.S. House delegation.
Robert Scott, a Maryland assistant attorney general, asked during cross examination why Trende used 2020 election data for his analysis when Biden, a Democrat, won by a large margin in Maryland over President Donald Trump, a Republican, instead of using data from 2018, when Republican Gov. Larry Hogan won reelection in the state, or in 2014 when he was first elected.
Trende said he didn’t look at “a really weird election, where you have an exceptionally strong and popular Republican running, because it’s unusual.” Hogan is only the second Republican governor ever to be reelected in Maryland.
“Well, isn’t it true, Mr. Trende, that you just didn’t run those results, because it wasn’t going to fit with the narrative that you wanted?” Scott asked.
“The answer is no,” Trende said, after the judge overruled an objection.
The bench trial is being held this week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court before Judge Lynne Battaglia.
The judge asked Trende if he believed the Maryland map was an example of “extreme gerrymandering,” noting that was something different from partisan gerrymandering.
Trende said he believed under any definition, the map would “fit the bill” of extreme gerrymandering.
“It’s just right there staring you in the face,” he said. “There’s the surgical carving out of Republican and Democratic precincts.”
The state’s constitution doesn’t ban partisan gerrymandering, and the need for drawing compact districts does not apply to the congressional map, unlike the map for state legislative districts.
Battaglia also asked him to describe the adverse affect on Republicans.
“It was plainly, to me, drawn with an intent to hurt the Republican Party’s chances of electing anyone to Congress,” Trende said, adding: “it dilutes and diminishes their ability to elect candidates of choice.”
Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in voter registration in Maryland, where the GOP has long criticized the state’s congressional map for its sprawling districts, contending it’s one of the most gerrymandered in the nation.
Republicans are seeking to have the map overturned in court.
The trial involves two lawsuits. One was brought by a group of Republican state lawmakers backed by Fair Maps Maryland. The other was brought by the national conservative activist group Judicial Watch.
A separate legal case involving a map approved earlier this year for the boundaries of the General Assembly is expected to begin next week.