Maryland Del. John R. Hargreaves, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, appears to have lost his bid for reelection to the Eastern Shore seat he has held for the last 16 years, apparently a victim of legislative redistricting.

Hargreaves, who has been chairman of the committee that oversees the state budget since it was set up 12 years ago, was initially declared a winner in the 37th District, but a late-night discovery Tuesday of a vote-count error changed the tally against him.

Elections officials were counting some 700 absentee ballots late yesterday before declaring the results final, but Hargreaves said that preliminary, and unofficial, counts of the absentee ballots would not change his loss.

"The absentees will run pretty much the same way. It'll be kind of a wash and the margins will probably stay the same," he said. Without absentee ballots included, Hargreaves, a Democrat, was fourth, by less than 200 votes, in a field of candidates vying for three House of Delegates seats in the district. The district elected two Democrats and one Republican.

Hargreaves' reelection chances were damaged last winter when the General Assembly approved a new political map for the state, as required by once-a-decade redistricting, that split his home base, Caroline County, into two districts. Three other counties had more population in the 37th District and it was in those areas that candidates won.

Hargreaves' apparent loss brings to two the number of chairmanships that House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin will have to fill when the legislature convenes in January. Cardin said yesterday he is waiting for the official tallies in the Hargreaves race before making any decisions.

However, prime candidates for the appropriations post are R. Clayton Mitchell, an Eastern Shore Democrat who has headed an appropriations subcommittee for the last eight years, and committee vice chairman R. Charles Avara, a Baltimore Democrat.30:Picture, JOHN R. HARGREAVES . . . apparent victim of redistricting