Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

O’Malley intended Md. redistricting map to favor Democrats

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley defended the 'zero tolerance' approach again Wednesday, saying the Justice Department Report report did not account for improvements, including "historic reductions in violent crime" under his watch. (Jim Cole/AP file photo)

(Jim Cole/AP file photo)

ANNAPOLIS — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley testified that part of his intent was to shift a congressional district long held by a Republican to a Democrat when the state redrew its eight districts in 2011.

O’Malley, a Democrat whose office held strong influence over redrawing the state’s congressional map, emphasized in a deposition recently made public in a federal lawsuit that he intended to comply with the law. He also said redistricting in Maryland and many other states is still a partisan process, though he has since decided he supports the use of nonpartisan redistricting commissions. In 2011, though, he set out to draw a map favorable to the Democratic Party.

“That was certainly my hope, and it was part of my intent,” O’Malley testified in April, adding he also intended to “create a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican; yes, this was clearly my intent.”

The longtime Republican incumbent in western Maryland, Roscoe Bartlett, ended up losing the election in 2012 to John Delaney, who is still representing Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. The district was changed to include 300,000 voters in Montgomery County, a suburb of the nation’s capital with more Democratic voters. Maryland now has seven Democrats and one Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege state officials redrew Maryland’s districts based on party registration and voting histories. They’re asking a three-judge panel to prevent the state from enforcing its congressional map.

Michael Kimberly, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, filed a motion Wednesday saying the map was drawn by NCEC Services Inc., a consultant for the Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation. The court filing contends there were two parallel procedures in Maryland’s 2011 redistricting process.

“The first was a superficial, public process led by the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee (or GRAC), which was little more than window dressing,” according to the court filing. “The second was a behind-the-scenes process led by Maryland’s congressional delegation and a political consulting firm, who actually drafted the map that would become the 2011 plan.”

Attorneys contend that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch and their aides also had input. Miller and Busch, who are both Democrats, also gave depositions in the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say an NCEC analyst named Eric Hawkins drew redistricting maps for the state, using geographic information system software called Maptitude.

“The purpose of what we were doing was, No. 1, incumbent protection. And No. 2, trying to see if there was a way that there was another Democrat district in the state,” Hawkins testified in his deposition.

The lawsuit comes as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has been pushing for redistricting reform to take the matter out of the hands of politicians and put it under an independent board. Last month, Hogan vetoed a bill passed by the Democrat-led legislature to change the redistricting process, a measure Hogan described as a “phony” reform plan, because it requires five other states to agree before it would take effect.

“The governor is focused on moving forward with the nonpartisan redistricting reform he has advocated for since taking office and has proposed for the past two legislative sessions,” said Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan. “In light of these troubling revelations, it is past time for all parties to come together and get politicians out of the redistricting process so Marylanders have the free and fair elections they deserve.”