Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes' redistricting plan, which faced court challenges throughout the state after its approval by the General Assembly, was upheld in Baltimore yesterday by a state special master, with one change in Baltimore.
Challenges to change the map in Montgomery and Howard counties were turned down by Special Master W. Albert Menchine who called the redistricting plan, "a good faith effort on the part of the state to meet all the constitutional demands."
The only change Menchine recommended to the state Court of Appeals, which will render a final decision in June, was in the 44th District, considered Baltimore's "swing" district racially. The city also has four predominantly white districts and four predominantly black districts. Menchine's change will move Morgan State University, a primarily black university, out of the predominantly white 43rd District into the more balanced 44th District.
The change also would move Del. Gerald J. Curran back into the 44th District, which he currently represents, from the 43rd.
Menchine defended the plan, saying, "In the course of final argument, counsel for several petitioners spoke glibly about gerrymandering . . . yet with one exception the 44th district , none was able to point to a single instance of discriminatory districting in the legislative plan."
Menchine's ruling was a defeat for Howard County residents who had wanted the plan changed to give them more representation in Annapolis at the expense of Prince George's County.
The ruling also means candidates now can campaign knowing exactly where their constituencies are going to be in the fall. "The Court of Appeals is very unlikely to overrule its own master," said Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery). "Now we all know exactly where we have to do our work."