A congressional redistricting plan favored by Democrats advanced in the Maryland state Senate Wednesday.
In their first session of the day, senators rejected an amendment that would have swapped out the map for one preferred by Gov. Larry Hogan, R.
The plan that advanced, HB1, was submitted to the General Assembly by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, a group put together by the Legislature’s Democratic leadership and with a Democratic majority.
The governor’s favored plan was developed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a partisan-balanced group that he established earlier this year.
Republican senators had questions about the legislative commission map’s treatment of minority voters.
Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll, asserted that based on Maryland’s demographic breakdown, there should be four majority-minority districts.
According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a non-partisan research group, the map in HB1, favored by Democrats, would create three majority-minority districts, while the citizen commission map, preferred by Republicans, would create four such districts.
“We’re actually doing a disservice to our state and the groups and the people that are in it by having a map that doesn’t fully represent the diversity of the state,” Ready said.
The legislative commission’s map would create seven strongly Democratic districts and one competitive district, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
Maryland’s congressional delegation has seven Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Andy Harris, Cockeysville.
The map-making its way through the Legislature could potentially make Harris’ reelection more difficult.
Republicans in both the House and Senate have pointed to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project’s grades for Maryland redistricting plans, which were positive for the citizen map and negative for the HB1 version.
Sen. Craig Zucker, D-Montgomery, said the F grade assigned to the Democrats’ preferred map should stand for “forgot” because he said the Princeton Gerrymandering Project didn’t take the Voting Rights Act into account.
The Voting Rights Act governs racial discrimination in redistricting, including diluting minority votes.
The Princeton project’s website states they are “developing methods for determining whether individuals’ votes are diluted.”
Much of the discussion centered on the ideas of compactness and contiguity.
Republican senators, like their House of Delegates colleagues, pointed to districts stretching from the Pennsylvania border nearly to Washington, D.C., as proof that the HB1 map does not have compact districts.
Senate President Pro-Tem Melony Griffith, D-Prince George’s, argued that focusing on only one criterion, like compactness, isn’t realistic.
“The mapmakers don’t have the luxury of having a single factor,” Griffith said.
Griffith served on the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission and said the two largest factors driving their map were the Voting Rights Act and having the required number of voters in each district.
She said dealing with all the factors at once, including compactness, communities of interest, and transportation patterns, is difficult.
“It’s almost like, I don’t want to use the word ‘whack-a-mole’, but you get the point,” Griffith said.
Ready suggested the Legislature “push pause on this and go back to the drawing board” with the independent commission’s map as a starting point for discussion.
“What we may come out with I may still not like,” Ready said.
However, HB1, intact with the Democrats’ preferred map, advanced without amendment.
Before the vote, Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, R-Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico counties, predicted the majority of the Legislature would move forward with what she called a partisan map.
“And what’s disappointing and frustrating going through this process is we have the opportunity this week … to break a cycle of gerrymandered maps,” Carozza said.
HB1 came to the Senate floor after a favorable vote in the Reapportionment and Redistricting committee Wednesday morning.
The House passed the bill, largely along party lines Tuesday evening.
The Senate was scheduled to return at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
The House did not meet Wednesday morning but was scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening.
This article was originally published on CNSMaryland.org on Wednesday, December 8, 2021.