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Hogan vetoes redistricting plan; lawmakers swiftly override it

ANNAPOLIS — A veto of a legislative plan to redraw the state’s eight congressional districts lasted less than two hours before the House and Senate overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s action.

Hogan vetoed the bill the day after the legislature sent him the bill, denouncing it as illegal gerrymandering that “makes a mockery of our democracy.”

In return, the Democratic-controlled legislature moved swiftly to countermand him.

“I understand why the governor doesn’t like this map,” said Sen. Craig Zucker, D-Montgomery. “He didn’t appoint the members (of the commission), and it’s not his map.”

The Senate voted 32-14 on a straight party line vote to overturn Hogan’s veto. That vote came minutes after the House voted 96-42 to override the veto.

The swift succession of moves sets up an expected court battle.

“Bring on the lawsuit,” said Del. Matthew Morgan, R-St. Mary’s.

Senate Republicans limited their comments having unsuccessfully debated against the bill extensively just a day before.

By contrast, Republicans in the House engaged in a one-sided debate for nearly an hour in an attempt to prevent what even they acknowledged was an inevitable outcome.

Republicans called the districts in the legislative plan less compact, saying they would benefit Democrats and eliminate the last Republican congressman in the state. In that proposal, the 1st Congressional District, represented by Republican Andy Harris, extends over the Chesapeake Bay and into Anne Arundel County, thus making the only GOP congressional seat more competitive for Democrats.

The new 3rd District extends from Montgomery County east to the Susquehanna River.

Prior to 2002, the state’s eight districts were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. That year, the margin was reduced to six to two. In 2012, that was further reduced to a seven-to-one margin favoring Democrats.

“I’m disappointed,” said Del. Christopher Adams, an Eastern Shore Republican and minority whip. “I am disappointed because we have been here before. We did not learn the lessons of 10 years ago,” he said, citing the last decennial redistricting process.

Democrats offered no response other than the final vote tally.

The legislative plan stood in contrast to a proposal offered by an independent commission appointed by Hogan. The districts in that plan featured  smaller, more compact districts that limited the number of congressional districts in any of the state’s 24 political subdivisions.

But the fate of the bills, as with the veto override, was never in doubt.

“It’s been made crystal clear this week that the legislature has rigged the process and predetermined the result from the outset to ignore the (independent) commission’s maps,” Hogan told reporters.

Hogan sharply criticized the legislative maps as highly partisan and protective of Democrats.

“Being worst in America is not the distinction we want for the great state of Maryland. The actions of these politicians in Annapolis this week are a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with our broken political system. It’s an unmitigated arrogance of power and Marylanders are completely fed up.”

Hogan’s criticisms still hung in the air and the ink of the veto stamp barely had time to dry before the bells calling 141 delegates to the House chamber began to ring.

Hogan vowed that private lawsuits by unnamed but affected Maryland residents would be filed in both state and federal court. He also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to add Maryland to a lawsuit involving a new congressional district map in Texas that was rammed through by that state’s Republicans. The lawsuit says the Texas redistricting maps discriminate against minority voters by diluting their voting power.

“This is not the end of the process,” said Hogan. “It is just the beginning.”