xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland Democrats send new congressional map to Gov. Hogan

Democratic lawmakers sent a redrawn Maryland congressional map to Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday evening, brushing aside objections from Republicans to pass their redistricting plan along party lines.

Hogan, a Republican, already has vowed to veto the proposed congressional map, which preserves the Democratic Party’s outsized electoral advantage that allows them to hold seven of the state’s eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Maryland Senate endorsed the Democrat-preferred map in a party-line vote Wednesday evening, a day after Democrats in the Maryland House of Delegates did the same.

Advertisement
Kobi Little, Baltimore NAACP president, looks toward the statehouse as he speaks about the state seal and flag at a League of Women Voters Maryland redistricting rally on Lawyers Mall. December 8, 2021.
Kobi Little, Baltimore NAACP president, looks toward the statehouse as he speaks about the state seal and flag at a League of Women Voters Maryland redistricting rally on Lawyers Mall. December 8, 2021. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun)

It wasn’t immediately clear how quickly the governor would issue his veto — but Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, will almost certainly override Hogan’s objections to enact the map into law. Only a single Democratic lawmaker, Montgomery County Del. Gabriel Acevero, joined Republicans in opposing the proposed congressional map, leaving the minority party well short of the support needed to derail the plan. Acevero declined to explain his vote.

States are required to redraw their electoral maps once every decade to adjust for population changes since the last census and ensure that voters have roughly equal say in electing politicians to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Advertisement
Advertisement

A legal battle over the proposed map now likely looms. Hogan has threatened repeatedly to fight the redistricting plan in court and Fair Maps Maryland, an anti-gerrymandering advocacy group run by a longtime Hogan political adviser, announced it had hired lawyers to explore potential lawsuits to block the map in state or federal court.

Hogan also backed a court challenge to Maryland’s current congressional map that was eventually shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2019 decision that held federal courts have no role in policing partisan gerrymandering of electoral boundaries.

The congressional map approved by the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday. SOURCE: Maryland General Assembly Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission | Baltimore Sun graphic

The state’s current map has been criticized widely as among the most heavily gerrymandered in the nation, with sprawling congressional districts that carve up portions of the state in ways that skew congressional elections in favor of Democrats. Republicans routinely win more than a third of the statewide vote — and sometimes more — but hold just a single congressional seat, the Eastern Shore-based district currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris.

Political analysts mostly agree that the new map passed by the General Assembly would largely preserve that balance of power, although Democrats would have a better chance of potentially knocking off Harris after redrawing the district to cross the Bay Bridge and take in more liberal-leaning areas of Anne Arundel County.

Advertisement

Democratic leaders contended that the reworked map represents an improvement over Maryland’s current congressional map, which was adopted in 2011, by making most districts more compact and making six of the eight at least somewhat more competitive.

But Republican lawmakers railed against the proposed map as unfair and undemocratic, accusing Democrats of a naked partisan power grab and leaving conservative Marylanders without equitable representation in Washington. State Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican and the party’s leader in the state Senate, likened the effort to “putting a little lipstick” on a pig but called the maps “still grossly gerrymandered.”

Hogan denounced the map as “an insult to Marylanders and an affront to our democracy” in a tweet Wednesday evening.

The League of Women Voters Maryland holds a rally on Lawyer's Mall opposing gerrymandered congressional maps. December 8, 2021.
The League of Women Voters Maryland holds a rally on Lawyer's Mall opposing gerrymandered congressional maps. December 8, 2021. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun)

Republicans largely preferred an alternate map drawn by a commission appointed by Hogan that was made up of Democrats, Republicans and independent voters. The commission’s map included more neatly-drawn districts that would give Republican candidates a strong chance of winning two or three congressional seats.

Democrats shot down several efforts by Republican lawmakers to pass the Hogan-backed maps instead.

Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican, also criticized the Democrat-preferred maps for continuing to split the state’s major population centers between numerous congressional districts. Montgomery County will be divided between four different districts while Baltimore City and Baltimore County are each sliced into three.

“It’s going to be another laughingstock congressional map,” Ready said.

A couple of Democrats scrupulously denied that partisan political considerations played a role in how the maps were crafted. But others suggested that using the redistricting process to stack the deck in their party’s favor was necessary to help offset Republican-led gerrymandering in other states.

“You can’t separate what’s happening outside of Maryland from what we do,” said Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, who raised his voice to rail against national Republicans for blocking federal legislation that would ban partisan gerrymandering nationwide.

A redistricting commission formed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan endorsed a map that has more compact districts than lawmakers' and that more closely follows jurisdictional and natural boundaries. SOURCE: Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission | Baltimore Sun graphic

Fellow Democratic Sen. Ronald Young of Frederick County said he’d also long supported efforts to ban gerrymandering across the country. But as long as Republicans in other states continued drawing electoral maps to favor of their candidates, Young said, Democrats in Maryland should continue to do the same.

“If we give away seats while other states are taking them, my people that I care about aren’t being represented in Washington,” Young said. “We have to fight where we can to keep that balance and I think we’ve done it in a fair way to represent the majority of people in Maryland — and represent the majority of people in the country.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement