- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

ANNAPOLIS The Maryland Court of Appeals declared Gov. Parris N. Glendening's legislative redistricting plan unconstitutional because of an "excessive number of political subdivision crossings," the judges said in an opinion released yesterday.
The 68-page opinion listed the reasons for its June 11 decision to throw out the governor's plan and draft a new one for election of the state's 47 senators and 141 delegates.
The only dissent came from Judge Irma Raker, who criticized the majority for putting too much emphasis on "due regard" for political boundaries and for drawing its own plan instead of giving the governor and legislature a second chance to create legislative districts.
"The governor and the General Assembly did not fail, refuse or unduly delay to come forth with a valid redistricting plan after having been advised by the court that the plan was not constitutional the court's order gave them no such opportunity," Judge Raker wrote.
Chief Judge Robert Bell, writing for the majority, said if time had permitted, the court could have sent the issue back to the General Assembly.
"When, as now, legislative elections are imminent, there simply is no time to return the matter to the political branches," the opinion said.
The appeals court made numerous changes in the plan that was developed by the Democratic governor and accepted by the legislature.
The changes had a dramatic effect in Baltimore city and Baltimore County. The court took five shared districts, as Mr. Glendening had proposed, and put two of them entirely in the county and three entirely in the city. One result was to reduce Baltimore's representation in the legislature and force some incumbents to run against each other.
The Court of Appeals' plan also reduced the number of times that Baltimore County's border was crossed from 12 to three, eliminated three of four crossings in Anne Arundel County and one of three in Prince George's County.
Attorneys for the state had argued that the constitutional requirement that "due regard" be taken for political boundaries did not prohibit the governor from taking into account other factors.
Judge Bell wrote that other factors can be considered including regional needs and protection of incumbents but not if they result in too many border crossings.
"The constitution 'trumps' political considerations. Politics or non-constitutional considerations never 'trump' constitutional requirements," the majority opinion said.
Judge Raker said the majority decision was a "stunning reversal" of the court's ruling in 1992, when, in a split decision, it upheld a plan with numerous boundary crossings.
"Districts need only be reasonably compact and contiguous, and natural and political subdivision boundaries need be respected only when reasonably feasible to do so," she wrote in her dissenting opinion.

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