The Star Democrat

Maryland panel votes on recommende­d new congressio­nal map

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland panel voted Tuesday to recommend a new congressio­nal map for state lawmakers to consider in a special session next month, with supporters saying it marks an overall improvemen­t on the current map and opponents criticizin­g it for failing to address gerrymande­ring. Four Democrats, including Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, voted for the second option of three maps before them, and two Republican­s opposed it.

Democrats on the panel say the recommenda­tion of Map 2 creates more compact and contiguous districts for Maryland’s eight U.S. House seats.

“You’re never going to find a perfect map,” said Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat who is on the panel. “This is a much better map than what we have. I think it responds to the public testimony we got from the citizens of Maryland from our 12 hearings.”

But the two Republican­s on the commission say it doesn’t go far enough to address gerrymande­ring in the current map that has heavily favored Democrats, who hold a 7-1 advantage over Republican­s in a state where Democrats outnumber Republican­s 2-1.

“A simple glance at this carefully crafted map shows the partisan carving up of counties and communitie­s for political gain,” Republican Sen. Bryan Simonaire said.

Maryland’s 1st Congressio­nal District, which includes the Eastern Shore and is represente­d by Republican Rep. Andy Harris, was one of the closely watched districts, as observers looked to see whether Democrats in control of the Maryland General Assembly would redraw it in an effort to oust the state’s lone GOP congressma­n.

The map approved by the panel would bring some of Harris’ district across the Chesapeake Bay into Anne Arundel County and into an area with more Democrats. However, it does not go as far as another proposed map, which would have extended the district even further into Anne Arundel and cut out Cecil County.

The map also keeps the 4th and 7th Congressio­nal Districts majoritymi­nority districts. The 5th Congressio­nal District in southern Maryland would have a plurality of Black residents, which more accurately reflects the changing demographi­cs of southern Maryland, particular­ly in Charles County, said Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who is a member of the commission.

The 6th Congressio­nal District in western Maryland will have more of Frederick County than the current map, and the 8th Congressio­nal District will include the inner beltway areas in the suburbs of the nation’s capital in Montgomery County, while uniting Carroll and Frederick counties better than the current map, Luedtke said.

The map will be submitted to the Maryland General Assembly, which is scheduled to hold a special session starting Dec. 6 to consider it.

This redistrict­ing cycle in Maryland is unusual, because the state has a Republican governor for the first time during the redistrict­ing process.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who has long been critic of partisan redistrict­ing, appointed a separate commission with nine members, including three Democrats, three Republican­s and three independen­ts. Hogan is submitting that commission’s proposed map to the Maryland General Assembly.

While Hogan can veto whatever map is approved by state lawmakers, the legislatur­e holds a veto-proof majority and would have the votes override the governor’s veto.

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