ANNAPOLIS — A House committee has recommended a legislative plan to redraw Maryland’s eight congressional districts, spurning appeals from Gov. Larry Hogan and good-government groups to choose a map proposed by a citizens group.
The initial vote by the House Rules Committee followed more than three hours of hearings on competing proposals. The same panel opted to not vote on a proposal offered by an independent panel favored by Gov. Larry Hogan. The hearings and expected vote left some good government groups discouraged.
“We take no position (on the map) today because the outcome is really preordained,” Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, told a joint meeting of delegates and senators.
The vote of 18-6 fell along strict party lines, with Democrats backing the plan and Republicans opposing it. Del. Anne Healey, D-Prince George’s, said the vote on the plan offered by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission appointed by the legislature foreclosed on the need for a vote on a plan proposed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The committee vote moves the House version of the bill to the full House Monday night. An initial vote is expected tomorrow as Republicans will likely offer a series of amendments. One such amendment could attempt to replace the approved legislative plan with that of the independent redistricting commission. Such a move is seen as an effort to force Democrats to vote against the plan favored by Republicans.
The General Assembly returned to Annapolis Monday for an expected five-day special session. Top of the agenda for lawmakers will be passing a decennial congressional redistricting plan. The legislature will deal with nearly two dozen vetoes of bills issued by Gov. Larry Hogan. They also plan to elect a new treasurer.
The governor has called on lawmakers to take up a package of crime bills.
Those bills were introduced in the Senate but immediately sent to the Rules Committee. House versions were not introduced. Leaders in the House and Senate said two houses would likely focus on the three top priorities of the special session. Hogan’s crime bills would have to wait for the 2022 regular session.
The House will move on the proposed congressional map first with an initial floor vote as soon Tuesday. A final version could be on Hogan’s desk as early as Thursday.
Two proposals to redraw the state’s eight congressional districts were part of a joint hearing of House and Senate committees.
One set of congressional maps favored by Hogan was drawn by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a nonpartisan independent panel he appointed. The plan proposed eight compact districts that could potentially increase Republican representation by one seat.
The Princeton Gerrymandering project graded the proposal an A for partisan fairness and geographic compactness, including limiting the number of counties with multiple congressional districts to just five.
The second plan, drawn by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, is less compact. It proposes that the 1st Congressional District, represented by Republican Andy Harris, extend over the Chesapeake Bay and into Anne Arundel County, thus making the only GOP congressional seat more competitive for Democrats.
Karl Aro, who chaired the panel, said the maps were designed to keep communities of interest together while following federal requirements. But the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the map a grade of F for partisan fairness and geographic compactness.
Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery and a member of the legislative panel that drew the maps, said the new districts are representative “of the way people live and work.”
“People don’t separate their lives based on county lines,” said Luedtke. “They cross county lines all the time to go shopping, to go to work, to take their kids to lacrosse or football practice of visit a hospital if they’re sick. County lines drawn by colonial surveyors 300 years ago simply aren’t an accurate reflection of how people live their lives in modern day Maryland, which is where the idea of communities of interest comes from.“