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Supreme Court to hear Maryland redistricting case

FILE - This Oct. 5, 2018, file photo shows the U. S. Supreme Court building before dawn in Washington. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear a case involving alleged gerrymandering in Maryland’s redistricting.

The Supreme Court will also hear a North Carolina redistricting case. The two cases involve allegations that congressional districts were drawn in ways to give one party an advantage over the other.

In the Maryland case, Benisek v. Lamone, it was charged that the rights of Republican voters were disenfranchised when the district was redrawn to give Democrats the edge over members of the GOP. In North Carolina, it’s been alleged that Republicans worked to tilt the balance in their favor.

The news comes on the same day that a commission formed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan met for the first time to address the issue. The Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering is charged with redrawing the district that flipped from red to blue after being redrawn after the 2010 census.

The nine-member commission consists of three appointees — one Democrat, one Republican, one unaffiliated — and six Maryland residents who applied to serve. That includes two Republicans, two Democrats and two unaffiliated voters.

At the first meeting, members introduced themselves and explained why they wanted to serve on the commission, which must finish its work by March 4.

Commission member Maury Epner, a former federal prosecutor, a Republican and a resident of the 6th Congressional District, apologized for being late due to a traffic jam on the Capital Beltway and then said jokingly, “I’d like to say that the Beltway backup was a direct result of all of the people from the 6th District being up in arms over the current state of affairs!”

Alex Williams, a retired federal judge and a Democrat, told the group, “We want to use our collective wisdom — I want to learn a lot from all of you.” He added, “The governor has made it very clear that he wants a clear and transparent and independent job done.”

Williams said he hopes that the redistricting work that the commission produces will serve as a model for the rest of the country.

The commission will hold a series of public meetings; the first will be Jan. 14 in Frederick County; the second, on Jan. 28 in Montgomery County, and the third in Western Maryland on Feb. 6. Each meeting will be held starting at 7 p.m., with the exact locations to be announced later.

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