Lawmakers unveil new proposal for Maryland congressional districts

Bryan P. Sears//March 28, 2022

Lawmakers unveil new proposal for Maryland congressional districts

By Bryan P. Sears

//March 28, 2022

A new proposal to reapportion Maryland’s eight congressional districts was introduced Monday night.

Legislative leaders are under pressure to meet a Wednesday deadline set by Judge Lynne Battaglia after the retired Court of Appeals judge ruled that a bill passed in December was unconstitutional. Battaglia gave lawmakers until Wednesday to deliver a new map or file an appeal.

Earlier in the day Monday, David Schulein, a spokesman for Senate President Bill Ferguson, confirmed that a new bill with new congressional maps will be introduced when the House and Senate return to floor sessions.

“This legislation is contingent on the loss of an appeal and is expected to be on the Governor’s desk this week,” the two presiding officers said in a joint statement. “However, we worked expeditiously to ensure that the redistricting process was not further delayed and that the map presented reflects the new requirements as set forth by Judge Battaglia.”

The bill will have to navigate a number of procedural votes, including one allowing for it to be introduced this far into the session — there are about two weeks left.

A virtual joint hearing between the House and Senate is expected to take place Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. No members of the public will be permitted to testify on the bill.

“It’s concerning that they continue to work in secrecy, providing no opportunity for the public to see a map or to weigh in,” said Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, which is a member of a coalition of groups calling for redistricting reform in Maryland.

Typically there is a lag between when a bill is introduced and it’s available to the public to read. The lag could complicate public review. Schulein said every effort will be made to expedite publishing the bill on the General Assembly website.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, yet Democrats hold a 7-1 advantage over Republicans in the state’s U.S. House delegation. Opponents of the map approved in December said it made the state’s lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris, vulnerable.

The new map removes a previous change to Harris’ district that would have added more Democrats to it by stretching the 1st Congressional District across the Chesapeake Bay into Anne Arundel County.

Schulein said the plan is to have a bill to Gov. Larry Hogan by Wednesday in time to meet Battaglia’s order. Hogan could be a wild card as he would have nearly a week to decide on whether to sign or veto the bill. Schulein acknowledged they have no assurances on how Hogan will handle the bill once it makes it to his desk.

Hogan, who backed a plan drawn by a commission he appointed, vetoed the legislature’s map in December. On Friday, Hogan called for the plan drawn by his commission to be adopted.

“That map isn’t perfect, either,” said Antoine.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Adrienne Jones did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, Battaglia issued an order striking down the maps passed in December, saying they unfairly disadvantaged Republican voters under the Maryland Constitution. She ordered that new maps be sent to her by Wednesday for a Friday hearing.

Battaglia’s ruling was similar to others in states including North Carolina and Pennsylvania but represented a first of its kind in Maryland.

Observers had expected an appeal by the Office of the Attorney General, which represents the legislature.

Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, said he still expects an appeal.

“Given the five-day requirement, I think they’re trying to handle both scenarios: if the court confirms the lower court’s reasoning or if they reject it,” he said.

In December, Republican lawmakers on the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission expressed concern for how the maps were drawn and a lack of Republican participation.

It is not immediately clear who else participated in drawing the new maps other than staff from the Department of Legislative Services, as well as Jones and Ferguson, according to Schulein.

“Republicans were not involved in any of the decisions or drafting of the original or new congressional maps,” Simonaire said. “That being said, leadership has been informing us of what they are doing. The congressional map process had essentially zero bipartisanship input because being informed is much different than being involved.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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