Redistricting Threatens Election Calendar

The delay in census data could push back the 2022 Filing Deadline

The 2022 Election Cycle in Maryland gets underway on Tuesday as the Maryland State Board of Election and the local boards of election begin accepting certificates of candidacy for those who will be running for office.

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For some offices, they can file with confidence. Candidates for Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, U.S. Senate, and countywide offices already know the jurisdictions in which they are running.

The challenge comes with everything else.

Candidates who will be running for Congress, State Senate, the House of Delegates, and County Council will not know what districts they will be running in until after we complete the redistricting process. The completion of that process will be more challenging than it has been in the past.

First, let’s review the redistricting process. For the General Assembly, the Governor will propose new districts to the General Assembly. The General Assembly has 45 days from the introduction of the Governor’s plan to the General Assembly to adopt a plan of their own or else the Governor’s plan becomes law automatically. The Governor will also propose new Congressional Districts as well; the final map will be approved by the General Assembly, as the Governor’s Congressional plan does not automatically become law.

The last time we had Congressional and legislative elections so close to redistricting was in 2002. Those districts were not introduced until the regular General Assembly session in the beginning of 2002. But things were different then: the primary election in 2002 was not until September 10th. The filing deadline was not until later on in June.

(The 2002 election got scrambled because former Governor Parris Glendening created districts so egregiously gerrymandered that they were ruled unconstitutional)

This is where the complications start.

First off, primary elections were moved from September to June starting in 2014.

Secondly, in order to conduct redistricting, the Governor’s Redistricting Commission needs to wait on the receipt of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That receipt data is being delayed for six months, from no later than March 31st to no later than September 30th, due to the combination of delays related to the pandemic and meddling from the Trump Administration.

This means that the Commission will have a pretty limited amount of time to come forward with new districts. It also will limit the opportunities for Governor Hogan to call a special session of the General Assembly focused on redistricting.

With no special session, that means that the earliest the Governor can introduce his plan into the General Assembly is the first day of the 2022 Session. That date is January 12th. The 45th day following that would be Friday, February 25th. Assuming that the General Assembly does not adopt its own legislative redistricting plan, that is the earliest date that the new districts can become law.

February 25th, 2022 is three days after the posted filing deadline, February 22nd. And the February 25th date does not take into account any delays the General Assembly has in adopting new Congressional districts.

There are not really any good solutions to this at the moment. As the State Board of Elections notes above the date is subject to change by the General Assembly. But it is something to keep an eye on over the course of the next year as we approach the current filing deadline; right now, the filing deadline is just not going to be compatible with the redistricting calendar.