Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Election Day Is Critical for Maryland’s Map

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
If Maryland voters decide to throw out their Congressional map, the Legislature would need to draw a new map, which Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley would then have to sign into law.

On Election Day, Maryland citizens could vote to throw out their state’s 2011 Congressional redistricting map, a possibility that could lead to legal and political chaos.

For months, Maryland Democrats have dismissed this possibility as relatively uncomplicated. If the map goes down, the Democratic Legislature would draw a new — but very similar — map, and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) would sign it into law before the 2014 elections, they contend. But questions remain. 

Who would Maryland House Members represent in the interim? Would the old district lines, which disappear with the 112th Congress, be used, or would they serve voters under the 2011 redraw until new boundaries could be agreed to? 

The consensus among Maryland establishment Republicans and Democrats is that the 2011 map will determine representation until a new map is enacted for the 2014 cycle. But some of the state’s and nation’s smartest lawyers and political scientists are scratching their heads on the legal implications of such a move. One Maryland political insider called the matter “murky.”

“They’re between a rock and a hard place,” said attorney Ben Griffiths, who specializes in redistricting and voting rights litigation. 

According to Michael McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason University and an expert on redistricting, maps that are struck down are often used until the next election cycle. In the interim, a new House map is drawn and candidates run for office in those new boundaries, similar to what happens during the normal decennial redistricting process. 

But there are potential legal hurdles with that route, including the feasibility of having Members serve in districts that have been thrown out by the voters via referendum. And solving this problem by having Members represent the pre-2011 redistricting lines would violate the Constitution’s “one-man, one vote” edict. 

And population changes since 2002 would mean that the old districts would have too many or two few constituents. 

“There are some states where this has come up in the past, where representation has been ambiguous,” McDonald said. 

Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney said the state party has not entertained a lawsuit to influence the process in the event that the 2011 map is voted down. He expects the 2011 map will hold until a new one can be agreed to. 

However, any citizen has the right to file suit in the matter. 

“Not every judge shares the same view,” a Maryland political insider said. “This is the stuff law school exams are made of.” 

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