Some Carroll County Republican elected officials say the proposed 6th Congressional District map adopted by Gov. Larry Hogan’s bipartisan redistricting commission is a small step in the right direction.
The proposed map pairs most of Frederick County and about half of Carroll County with the westernmost part of the state, while consolidating an urban portion of Montgomery County to the 8th Congressional District — which southwestern Carroll used to be a part of.
“It’s an improvement, yes, because Frederick County is intact,” said State Sen. Michael Hough, R-Frederick and Carroll counties. “But Carroll County is still unnecessarily in two.”
The emergency commission, which includes registered Democrats, Republicans and independent voters, was created after a federal court in November 2018 ruled that Maryland Democrats unconstitutionally gerrymandered the 6th Congressional District, unanimously voted Friday to adopt a proposed map for the district.
The federal court ordered that a new map be drawn by March 7, prompting Hogan’s emergency commission. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in November appealed the panel of federal judges’ decision. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, suspending the lower court’s map deadline until the higher court reaches a decision.
It’s no slam dunk that the higher court will uphold the lower’s decision, Hough said. This case is unique because the lower federal court cited the the first amendment in reaching its decision, he added.
“(The commission) did try to respect geographic boundaries, county lines,” said Don West, Carroll County Democratic Central Committee chair. “I think this did a reasonable job with what they set out to do.”
Those residents of southern Carroll that were in Congressional District 8, which stretched down into Silver Spring, are going to be in District 6, which as proposed consists mostly of rural areas.
West pointed to the fact that the lines drawn by the emergency commission would likely only be employed for one election. Congressional maps are redrawn after every Decennial Census, balancing the population of each district.
“I think it is a lot of change,” he said.
Carroll’s mostly Republican General Assembly Delegation suggested that it was a positive move for Carroll to be included with similarly rural or suburban areas.
“I would’ve liked to see Carroll County stay together in one congressional district like it used to be … that they’d come up with a map that had us all in the 6th,” said Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-Carroll County. “That’s a little disappointing, but if my half (northern Carroll) stays in the 1st and the other half goes in the 6th, that’s not the worst possible outcome.
“I think the bottom half of county has more in common with the other western Maryland counties than with Montgomery County.”
It made much more sense, said Delegate April Rose, R-Carroll, when all of Carroll was part of the 6th District — from 1972 to 2011.
“This map certainly appears more fair,” Rose said.
Del. Susan Krebs, R-Carroll County, said she thought the map was “very modestly drawn to cover the court’s wishes.” She said she would’ve liked to see the commission go further, to redraw more districts.
The commission seemed determined to disturb as few congressional districts as possible, to remain on the task mandated by the court and then Hogan’s executive order.
Complicating the commission’s task was the fact that there have to be 721,512 people in each congressional district, the commission explained March 1, the day commissioners unanimously adopted a map submitted by a civilian.
The commission will host public hearings and field public input about the proposed map until March 26, according to Gov. Hogan’s executive order. By April 2 it must approve with at least a seven-member majority a final redistricting plan and map.
Public meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 12 in Montgomery County and March 20 in Washington County. The commission is also slated to host a workshop in Annapolis March 22.
Two of the nine commissioners resigned Friday following questions by The Baltimore Sun about whether the two members being on the commission violated the rules outlined in the Hogan’s executive order. The commission’s remaining seven members constitute a quorum and can see the process through, according to the governor’s office.
After the governor receives the final plan, he will introduce it as emergency legislation during the current Maryland General Assembly session, which is slated to conclude April 8.
The legislature, Hough said, will undoubtedly take a crack at redrawing the district.
The proposed map, some Carroll County Republican lawmakers said, is a step in the right direction toward reversing Democrat gerrymandering in the state.
“I think having regions together is important,” said State Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll County.
It’s of benefit for regions to be together for the citizens to share common issues with others in their district, Ready added, to “be able to know exactly who their congressperson is.”
Krebs, who said people in Carroll County “have nothing in common with people in Takoma Park,” added that the move “keeps Carroll County with like kinds of populations in Western Maryland in Frederick and Washington County … then we can have some say in the election.”
For anyone in the southern part of the county that likes U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who represents the 8th Congressional District, this move will be a shame, West said.
Sixty-one percent of Carroll County residents in District 8 voted for Raskin’s opponent, Republican John Walsh, in the 2018 midterm election. While Walsh garnered more votes in the more rural Carroll and Frederick counties, Raskin won reelection overwhelmingly, dominating in the much more populated Montgomery County.
“One man’s gerrymandering is another man's redistricting,” West concluded.