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The Daily Record's law news blog

Judges set Oct. 4 for next hearing on Md. gerrymandering

A three-judge U.S. district court panel in Baltimore will hear arguments Oct. 4 from Republican voters and the Maryland Board of Elections on their differing interpretation of a recent Supreme Court decision in their ongoing legal dispute over whether partisan gerrymandering in a congressional district was so severe it violated the minority party’s constitutional right to political association.

The GOP voters claim the justices’ June 18 ruling in Gill v. Whitford stands for the proposition that partisan gerrymanders could be unconstitutional based on a showing of intentional dilution of the minority party’s vote in a specific legislative or congressional district. But the Board of Elections counters the high court in Gill, a Wisconsin case, held that voter dilution cannot be asserted by a group but that each individual voter must show his or her vote was weakened as a result of the gerrymander.

Each party is urging the judges to grant summary judgment in its favor regarding the GOP voters’ First Amendment claim. The side that ultimately loses before the panel will likely seek review by the Supreme Court, which is familiar with the Maryland litigation.

The justices issued their ruling in Gill the same day they upheld the three-judge panel’s denial of the Republican voters’ request for a court order that the Democrat-dominated 6th Congressional District, encompassing Maryland’s five western counties, be redrawn in time for the general election this fall. The Supreme Court, in sending the case back to the panel, said such a hurried ruling would be premature.

The three judges on the panel are Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III and 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul v. Niemeyer. The case is docketed in the district court as O. John Benisek et al. v. Linda H. Lamone et al., No. 13-cv-3233.

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