POLITICS

Judges hear Maryland redistricting lawsuit arguments

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He also said an advisory panel to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley that proposed the map was very mindful of requests sent to it by the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.

Friedman also said several Republicans have expressed interest in running against incumbent Democrats in Congress, a sign that the new districts are actually more competitive.

"This is pushing more towards the middle," Friedman said.

The proposed map has angered Republicans because of big changes made to the 6th District, which is currently held by 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. The change brings a large portion of the western Maryland district into Montgomery County, which has more Democratic voters.

Judges on the panel map noted the 6th District changes and questioned how well the map reflected communities of interest in the state's eight districts. For example, Niemeyer noted that Bartlett's redrawn district will include people in far western Maryland, who cheer for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as people from Montgomery County, who are more likely to cheer for the Washington Redskins.

"They don't seem like they're in the same community," Niemeyer said.

Friedman said state and local elections officials need every day between now and April 3 to prepare for the primary. If the judges decide by the end of the year, he said, the state could go ahead with the April 3 primary.

"You cannot compress that schedule," Friedman said.

Niemeyer said the judges would work as diligently as possible.

In addition to challenging the lack of a third black district in the new map, the plaintiffs also are challenging a recent law that counts prisoners in the communities where they are from instead of the prisons where they are confined. They also are alleging Voting Rights Act violations.

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