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Battle Lines Are Drawn in Maryland As Hogan Advances Redistricting Plan

November 8, 2021 by Dan McCue
Battle Lines Are Drawn in Maryland As Hogan Advances Redistricting Plan
This photo shows a new proposed congressional map for the state of Maryland that was drawn by a panel appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 in Annapolis, Md.(AP Photo/Brian Witte)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan came out swinging on Friday, accusing Democrats in the state legislature of “rigging” the system when it comes to redistricting, even as he was promoting a new congressional district map he hopes they will consider.

Though Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in the Maryland legislature and ultimately control the decennial redistricting process, Hogan, a Republican, has been pursuing a parallel course to take lawmakers out of the process after years of litigation over past maps.

In January, Hogan signed an executive order creating the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a nine-member panel including three Democrats, three Republicans and three independents. 

Hogan named three members, including one Democrat, one Republican and one independent. The other six were selected from applications submitted by citizens.

In announcing the move, Hogan said there’s something wrong with a system that gives Democrats a seven-to-one advantage when it comes to seats in Congress when the Democrats only out-number Republicans by two to one in terms of voter registration.

“These absurdly drawn districts are the direct result of a blatantly obvious scheme where one party rigs the system to concentrate one party’s voters as much as possible while segregating another party’s voters into a larger number of districts so that they can continue to win comfortably,” Hogan said at a news conference.

Then in July, top Democratic lawmakers in the legislature announced the formation of their own redistricting commission.

“The commission’s goal is to ensure that Maryland’s representation reflects its citizens,” House Speaker Adrienne Jones said in the announcement. “The General Assembly will pass fair maps based on the robust public engagement and feedback of this commission.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Hogan’s panel, which held 36 public meetings with more than 4,000 attendees, got its proposed legislative and congressional maps done first, and submitted them to Hogan on Friday. He promptly accepted them and transmitted them to the Maryland General Assembly.

“I chose not to draw my own maps but to submit the ones from this esteemed citizen panel,” Hogan said at a Friday press conference.

He also signed a proclamation calling for a special session of the General Assembly beginning Monday, Dec. 6 for the purpose of acting on the commission’s maps.

Jones said the legislature will look at what the governor presents but it won’t be the only proposal under consideration.

She noted the panel she and Senate President Bill Ferguson empaneled in July is still working and receiving input from the public. 

The congressional map that ultimately ends up getting approved by the legislature would be subject to the governor’s veto, which would take a three-fifths vote to override.

“Unfortunately, for decades now, Maryland’s political power brokers have conducted the state’s redistricting process in secret,” Hogan said.

Later, he said that if he thinks the maps ultimately submitted to him for approval are unfair he will veto them.

“We would try to sustain the veto. If they overrode the veto, I think they’d probably be sued,” he said.

Maryland has long been in the legal crosshairs over its district maps, and it has been taken to court twice since the last census-driven redistricting in 2010 over allegations of partisan and racial gerrymandering.

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in one Maryland case that federal courts are not the appropriate venue to resolve issues around partisan gerrymandering. In light of this ruling, the justices then ordered lower federal courts to dismiss the case.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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