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Judge says Md. redistricting lawsuit can go forward

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A black activist group claiming that Maryland officials gerrymandered the state’s new congressional map received an initial court victory Monday, when a federal judge declined to throw out their lawsuit despite protest from state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

A group of nine voters backed by the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee sued the state this month over a congressional map submitted by Gov. Martin O’Malley and approved last month by the General Assembly, which the group argues violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting minority voter influence in several districts.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus said Monday he will refer the case to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, rejecting a motion by Mr. Gansler, a Democrat, that the case be dismissed.

Plaintiffs filed the suit largely over changes to Democratic Rep. Donna F. Edwards’ 4th District, which formerly consisted of parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties but was changed to include Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties.

Opponents of the new map argued it would deprive ethnic minorities in Montgomery County of any legitimate chance at electing a minority representative, and was drawn specifically to help Democrats win Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett’s 6th District.

Ms. Edwards is one of two black representatives in the state’s eight-member delegation.

The lawsuit has been backed by several other groups including the state Republican Party.

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