Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. has officially accepted the congressional and legislative maps drawn by his redistribution commission – and he has committed to presenting them, without modification, at the convening of the General Assembly next month.
The governor and General Assembly leaders on Friday signed documents to bring lawmakers back to Annapolis on December 6, for a special session to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries.
Speaking to reporters at a ceremony at State House, Hogan (right) praised the nine members of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission (MCRC) he established in January.
“The commission was given a clear and simple mission: to ensure that the people of Maryland are able to choose their elected officials and not the other way around,” said the governor. “This is what real, non-partisan redistribution looks like. “
RELATED: See Maps Created By The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The MCRC held 16 town halls attended by over 4,000 people, and commissioners reviewed 86 maps submitted by the public. They also held their working sessions online.
Judge Alexander Williams Jr. (D), one of the three co-chairs, said the panel had amended its early drafts in several parts of the state “in response to public demands.”
Hogan claimed that the maps produced by his commission “finally put an end to decades of gerrymandering in Maryland.”
Political realities suggest otherwise.
The Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly has its own committee, the Legislative Redistribution Advisory Commission (LRAC) – and they have been meeting since September to craft their own maps.
Democrats have such lopsided advantages in every chamber that they can essentially reject the MCRC’s proposals without a second look, the governor admitted. And they are likely to do it.
As Republicans across the country – in Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and elsewhere – are poised to draw cards to their advantage, Democrats in Maryland come under pressure from national party leaders to do what they can to offset the firepower of the GOP in most of the great red states. .
According to people familiar with the likely unfolding of the process, the congressional map-drawing process in Maryland will be most heavily influenced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Who was elected. first attended Congress in 1981 and is the longest-serving member of the delegation.
Most activists believe it will take a nationwide ban to end the practice of gerrymandering, but lawmakers have been reluctant to act.
An anti-gerrymandering measure sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) Has been blocked by Republican lawmakers.
Hogan admitted that “every party is guilty” of gerrymandering. “Republicans do it when they have the power. Democrats are doing it. But it is still wrong and it still has to change.
The map of Congress produced by the General Assembly a decade ago contained severely distorted districts that were widely considered to be the most politically motivated of all time. The state was sued by a group of Republicans in western Maryland and their case reached the Supreme Court, but judges refused to strike down the state map.
In large part because of the controversial 2011 map, Maryland’s congressional delegation is made up of seven Democrats and one Republican.
The Congressional Districts produced by the MCRC, on the other hand, are compact and contiguous. The lines are regular, and 18 of Maryland’s 23 counties, as well as Baltimore City, are entirely within one district.
“These maps actually respect the natural boundaries, the geographic integrity of our jurisdictions, communities and neighborhoods,” Hogan said. “These clear maps show districts which are geographically compact, which do not take into account how citizens are registered to vote, how they have voted in the past or which political party – if any – they belong to.”
“They also do not take into account the place of residence of an incumbent or a candidate for a post.”
Staff from the Planning Department, which assisted the “citizens” commission, were unable to provide the breakdown of voter registration in their constituencies. They were also unaware of how residents of the proposed districts voted in the 2020 election. Staff said they didn’t have that data because, by mandate, they had to rule out political considerations.
The map proposed by Congress creates six Democratic districts and two Republicans, as opposed to the current configuration of 7-1, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project’s Redistricting Report Card. Commission co-chair Walter Olson said he was particularly proud that the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the state its highest mark on partisan fairness.
When the General Assembly meets next month, lawmakers will vote to overturn the bills Hogan vetoed in May. Lawmakers are not expected to redistribute legislation until January.
Bennett Leckrone contributed to this report.