Disparate elections: New laws have expanded voting rights in Maryland, but legal battle continues over redistricting | News

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Voting rights in Maryland have been expanded under legislation passed in 2021, but a redistricting plan that some say is racist has spurred opposition and a legal challenge ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. .

Approved in December by the Baltimore County Council, the plan is being challenged in federal court on allegations of racial discrimination and illegality under the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit accuses the county council of gerrymandering by grouping minority voters into one predominantly black constituency while retaining a white majority in six others.

The Baltimore Sun reported that a federal judge has indicated a ruling will be issued soon.

The complaint was filed by a group of Baltimore County voters with the support of several groups, including the Baltimore County branch of the NAACP and the Baltimore County League of Women Voters. They have the support of the ACLU of Maryland.

The city of Baltimore was at the center of one of the improved voter access bills that passed the Democratic-majority House and Senate of Maryland, but was not signed by the Republican Governor Larry Hogan.

In Maryland, bills passed by lawmakers but not signed by the governor always become law.

The law, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2021, required the City of Baltimore to maintain and monitor a ballot box at its reservation center. The combined annual cost of the measure is just $4,000 to the city and state, according to a legislative tax analysis.

Universal mail-in voting is in place in Maryland, as is early voting. A law passed last spring, also not signed by Hogan, expanded the number of early voting centers based on population. For example, a county with a population between 100,000 and 124,999 would now have three such centers instead of just one.

Another law established that all voters are eligible for the permanent mail-in ballot and established a location protocol and security measures for the ballot boxes.

Maximizing participation is noted in policy analysis, ensuring that local officials use community centers and other public spaces as potential locations.

Beginning in 2023, an amendment to Maryland law will mandate a minimum annual allocation of $4 million by the state to a fund specifically intended to provide public funding for limited matching contributions for eligible candidates running for office. to the post of governor.

Eric Scicchitano is CNHI’s Pennsylvania reporter. Follow him on Twitter @ericshick11.

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