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GOP lawmakers challenge magistrate’s report on Md. legislative reapportionment

Del. Kathy Szeliga is one of three House Republicans who has sued over the state’s new legislative redistricting plan. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

ANNAPOLIS — Three Republican lawmakers have filed exceptions to a special magistrate’s report recommending that challenges to Maryland’s state legislative redistricting plan be dismissed.

The filing, which was expected, is the first to be made before the Friday deadline.

Attorneys for Republican Dels. Mark Fisher, Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga contend that Special Magistrate Alan Wilner’s report erred in three areas.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Fair Maps Maryland, said the map being challenged was drawn to protect Democrat incumbents and that party’s legislative supermajority.

“Maryland’s legislative districts are unconstitutional, they have been for decades, and these challenges once again prove that fact,” said Mayer. “The majority of these districts look like something from an abstract art collection, not things that represent actual communities and neighborhoods. No doubt that Jackson Pollock would be proud.”

Fair Maps Maryland is an anti-gerrymandering group that is closely aligned with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Wilner, in his April 4 report to the Court of Appeals, recommended denying compactness challenges to State Legislative Districts 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 33, and 47. Attorneys for the plaintiff lawmakers wrote that attorneys for the state failed to meet their burden of proof to rebut that challenge.

Additionally, the plaintiff attorneys said the state failed to sufficiently rebut challenges to District 27, which they said violates requirements that a district consist of adjoining territory and give due regard for natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.

Finally, the attorneys said, Wilner erred when preventing them from conducting discovery because of legislative privilege.

Friday is the deadline for filing exceptions to Wilner’s report.

In that report, Wilner recommended denying the claims made by all four plaintiff groups.

Wilner also recommended the rejection of challenges to other aspects of the redistricting plan filed by three other plaintiffs. Those plaintiffs could also file exceptions by the deadline.

The Court of Appeals has scheduled a hearing for April 13.