After making a few tweaks, state lawmakers are pushing forward a new map of districts for the 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly.
On a party-line vote Friday, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, a panel of lawmakers approved a map that shifts seats out of Baltimore City and into growing exurbs, while also creating a new district in northwest Baltimore County with hopes of electing a nonwhite lawmaker.
The proposed map will be introduced to the full General Assembly for consideration Wednesday, the first day of the legislature’s annual 90-day session.
“No map is perfect, but this is a very, very good map based on what I’ve seen over the last four decades,” said Karl Aro, a retired top adviser to lawmakers who chaired the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee.
The new map was required following the 2020 census, shifting districts around to accommodate demographic shifts and ensure fair representation. The General Assembly is split into 47 districts, each with one state senator and three state delegates. In some districts, all three delegates are elected at large, while others have one-member and two-member subdistricts.
The Maryland Constitution requires the districts to be compact and take into consideration geographic boundaries and existing political boundaries.
An initial version of the map was proposed in December, with revisions made following a public hearing. The revised map was not posted online before Friday’s vote, and the revisions were discussed only briefly during the committee’s video meeting.
Aro said one change creates a single-delegate subdistrict in District 11 in the Owings Mills area of northwest Baltimore County that would have a majority of residents who are not white. During a public hearing last month, an Owings Mills resident pushed for such a district, saying that African American residents in the community don’t feel that they are represented well enough.
Aro also said there were slight adjustments made in Harford, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties in response to public feedback, though they were not explained further.
The two Republican leaders on the committee voted against the map. Anne Arundel County Sen. Bryan Simonaire said he felt that the map still had too many examples of gerrymandering, while Allegany County Del. Jason Buckel said he believes all of the districts should be single-member districts.
The four Democrats on the committee voted for the maps, including Senate President Bill Ferguson of Baltimore, who said he is “incredibly proud” of the map.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, will put forward his own proposed map, drawn by a committee that he appointed composed of three Democrats, three Republicans and three unaffiliated voters. Hogan has long decried gerrymandering, which is the practice of drawing districts to favor one political party over another.
The legislature, which is dominated by Democrats, is expected to pass over Hogan’s proposal in favor of their own map.