Carroll County Republicans and others are expressing support for the congressional map approved earlier this month by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission and discussed by commission members at their final meeting Monday night.
The proposed map would carve out the eight districts to match population changes in the state since the 2010 census, the last time Maryland redrew its electoral lines. The redrawn map could shift the political advantage in contests for the seats, seven of which are held by Democrats.
The redistricting commission, backed by Gov. Larry Hogan, is composed of three Republicans, three Democrats and three unaffiliated voters and has been conducting public hearings on redistricting since June.
The commission’s proposed map has districts that sprawl across county lines less than the current ones. It also appears to give Republicans a chance of electing at least two members of Congress, one from a district based on the Eastern Shore and another from a district based in Western Maryland.
In addition, the map creates a district centered on Baltimore City that also includes some southern suburbs in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. Another district based in Baltimore County rings the city.
On Tuesday at a news conference held in support of the commission’s proposed map, Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said that for the past 10 years, Carroll County has been divided among two congressional districts whose populations lie mostly outside the county and do not share similar interests.
“We want to see fair maps. … It’s not too much to ask,” he said, adding the four proposed maps brought forward by leaders of Maryland’s General Assembly are “worse than what we have now.”
The current Maryland congressional map has been criticized as one of the most gerrymandered in the nation, though it has largely survived legal challenges. Several districts snake through the Baltimore region, including the current 3rd District, which a federal judge described as “reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”
“It is time for the General Assembly to do what is right and enact a fair and partisan map that limits county boundary crossing and … doesn’t have politicians picking their voters,” Ready said. “That’s what we’re going to be fighting for.”
Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, said “one of the biggest issues we have as a people today is the lack of confidence in our election process. … Part of that is concerns about gerrymandering and Maryland has the most gerrymandered districts in the United States of America.”
He strongly urged the General Assembly to “do what’s right for a change.”
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The people should be in charge of drawing political boundaries, Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, pointed out.
“It is arrogant of politicians to draw the boundaries and ensure their power is perpetuated. … That is precisely what happens in Maryland time and time again,” he said. “That arrogance has run amok for too long.”
State law gives Hogan veto power over any proposed congressional maps, but Democrats in the General Assembly — where they hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers — will almost certainly will have the final say over the map. The governor has called for a special session beginning Dec. 6 to take up redistricting.
Hogan has threatened a legal battle against any maps passed by the General Assembly over his veto that he considers “unfair.” The governor backed a previous challenge to Maryland’s current congressional districts that was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that federal courts have no role in sorting out partisan gerrymandering.
“It doesn’t make sense what we have now,” Del. Neil Parrott, a Washington County Republican, said. “Some of Carroll County is in the same district as Ocean City and another part is in the same district as Tacoma Park. … That doesn’t represent our towns here and that doesn’t give our citizens the voice they need.”
Parrott called the current congressional map an “embarrassment to Maryland” and insisted the Hogan-supported map is drawn fairly.
The General Assembly will address only the congressional map in its special session. It will consider state legislative maps in its next regular session, which starts Jan. 12.