Md's' highest court has turned down a challenge to the petition signature process.
Democrats and Republicans are pushing hard to get out the vote in November, particularly on the referendum question dealing with Maryland's Congressional Redistricting Plan.
The Court of Appeals on Friday turned down a challenge from the Democratic Party, which questioned the process for gathering petition signatures by the Republican Party and other organizations. The Democrats argued that an online process that was used violates the legal requirement that information must be submitted by the signer, instead of from an online form that's later mailed. The party also says the signer is supposed to be observed signing the petition. But the GOP contends that the online process is a helpful innovation which avoids errors where a citizen's signature is thrown out.
"For all Marylanders, it means they have a chance to vote on whether or not they want to accept these ridiculously drawn congressional districts," says Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney. "Frankly, it was outrageous that the State Democrat Party was so desperate they would sue to deny the right of people of the state of Maryland to participate in the political process and vote on this issue."
"We thought there was some strong Constitutional questions that needed to be resolved. So we pursued that track," responded Matthew Verghese, spokesman for the State Democratic Party. However, he says, the party was also getting ready for the campaign to persuade voters to support these changes. "But from day one, the day that we knew the Republicans were going to challenge that on the ballot, we were getting ready."
The new Maryland Redistricting Map removes areas east of Frederick from the 6th Congressional District, and places them within the 8th Congressional District, along with Montgomery County. The 6th District still includes Western Maryland, but now extends into Montgomery County.
Mooney and other Republicans have called the new map "gerrymandering." "The way that they sliced these things is not really appealing to anybody," he says. "It's frankly offensive. A lot of people couldn't believe that these districts were drawn that way."
But Verghese rejects arguments that this new map is "gerrymandering." "Republicans are just upset that they have no say in Annapolis, and they feel the way they can make a stink about that issue is by collecting 55,000 signatures and putting this on the ballot. That's fine," he says. "Maryland voters have always sided with Democrats when it comes to these elections. We won the governorship in 2010 by 14 points, and we're very confident this year that we'll have success up and down the ballot."
The GOP has also charged that this newly redrawn congressional map is a way for the Democrats to make it more difficult for long time Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, whose held the seat since 1993, to get re-elected. "The reason for this gerrymandering is to destroy Roscoe Bartlett. Not him, personally, but to destroy the area he represents so we cannot elect someone who has views on the issues like him," says Mooney.
"Roscoe Bartlett has to be accountable for the positions he's taken in Congress," responds Verghese. "From voting against middle class tax cuts, holding up the payroll tax cut, earlier, and generally being out of step with Maryland voters."
Democrat John Delaney, a businessman from Potomac, is challenging Bartlett for the election in November.
Both Republicans and Democrats are confident their side will prevail on the Congressional Redistricting issue in the general election. "Folks are upset, and I think the Democrats overreached. And I think they're going to get that message in November," says Mooney. "We think that given Maryland, and given where Maryland voters have said they've trusted in terms of their leaders and their values, we expect success on election night," Verghese says.