Redistricting panel begins task

Gov. Martin O'Malley's redistricting advisory committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to begin the process of redrawing Maryland's congressional and state legislative district maps.

The five-member panel, which is charged with recommending a redistricting plan to the governor, is set to schedule a series of public hearings.


The maps are to follow population counts from the2010 Census.

The General Assembly is expected to call a special session in mid-October to approve the O'Malley congressional map in time for the 2012 presidential election. State legislative districts will take shape early next year. The state's 188 legislative seats will next be contested in 2014.


O'Malley has named his appointments secretary, Jeanne Hitchcock, to lead the committee. Other members include Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Maryland Stadium Authority member Richard Stewart and Republican former Del. James King.

Closely watched in the redistricting process will be the new shape of the battleground 1st Congressional District, which has changed parties twice in the last two elections.

Republican Rep. Andy Harris wrested the seat from Democratic Rep. Frank M. Kratovil Jr. last November; Kratovil replaced Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in 2008.

The district includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.

National political groups have been waiting to see the shape of the new district, and whether Kratovil decides to challenge Harris, before deciding whether to direct money to the race.

The Maryland Republican Party released its own congressional district map on Tuesday. It would extend the 1st District from the Eastern Shore north to Pennsylvania, bypassing Harris' Baltimore County home.

The proposal appears to corral Harris with Democratic Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes into a single Baltimore County-based district.

It also would contain all of Baltimore City within a single district. The city now is divided among the districts of Ruppersberger, Sarbanes and Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.


"MDGOP's new map provides Marylanders with districts that protect voters, not incumbent politicians," GOP Chairman Alex X. Mooney said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Maryland Democrats said the party "looks forward to the open and transparent process."

"We are confident that they will review plans submitted by all Marylanders — including the Republican Party — and develop recommendations that will reflect the growing diversity of our State and comply with all legal standards," spokesman Matthew Verghese wrote in an e-mail.

Baltimore Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.