Maryland Democrats are considering a radical overhaul of congressional district lines that would give them a chance to win all eight of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, putting the lone Republican representative at risk.
Two of the four draft maps released by the General Assembly’s Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission spell trouble for Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisGOP lawmaker fined ,000 for failing to complete House security screening Georgia Republicans advance map that aims to pick up House seat in redistricting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE (R), who represents a district that covers the Eastern Shore.
Those proposals would add hundreds of thousands of voters from Anne Arundel County, home of Annapolis, in with voters from the less populous counties on the Eastern Shore. The two halves of the district would be connected only by the Bay Bridge, the four-mile span that crosses the Chesapeake.
“It would take a strong Republican year to carry the newly proposed First District, let alone flip any of the other Democratic districts,” said Todd Eberly, a political scientist and redistricting expert at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Republicans objected to the plans, which they see as an egregious gerrymander. Even some Democrats said the move to box Republicans out of the entire delegation was too much.
“The issue of going to all-Democratic representation in the Congress in a state where we’ve got one-third of the voters who are in fact Republicans, I don’t know how you sell something like that,” Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) said on WBAL on Wednesday. “I think that’s an overreach. For me, that’s a bridge too far.”
None of the four Democratic members of the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee returned requests for comment. The other two versions would largely keep Harris’s district intact.
The draft maps make substantial changes to the boundary lines around Baltimore and the Washington area, two regions where substantial populations of Black voters have the opportunity to elect members of Congress. But the districts themselves — currently represented by Reps. Mfume, John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats Rep. Bush drives calls for White House action on eviction moratorium lapse MORE (D) and Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme Hillicon Valley — Facebook launches rebranding campaign Maryland rep deactivates Facebook, Instagram until reforms are enacted MORE (D) around Baltimore and Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme Hoyer endorses Jazz Lewis for Maryland House seat Democrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout MORE (D), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinTrump allies leaning on his executive privilege claims Oversight panel eyes excessive bail, jail overcrowding in New York City Jan. 6 panel may see leverage from Bannon prosecution MORE (D) and Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOmar, Boebert blast one another after tense call Maryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme GOP leader's marathon speech forces House Democrats to push vote MORE (D) around Washington — remain solidly Democratic.
Maryland is no stranger to Democratic-engineered gerrymanders. After the 2010 census, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly drew lines that dramatically carved up a district held by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), who represented the conservative western panhandle and areas north of Baltimore. Democrats added thousands of voters in the Washington suburbs; in the subsequent election, Democrat John DelaneyJohn DelaneyMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme Warning: Joe Biden's 'eat the rich' pitch may come back to bite you Direct air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy MORE defeated Bartlett by 21 percentage points.
Districts that span major waterways aren’t new to Maryland either, Eberly said. In the 1970s, the Eastern Shore-based district included three counties in southern Maryland, now represented by Hoyer; then, the two sides were connected only by ferry. In the 1990s, the same district crossed the Bay Bridge.
While the legislature aims to oust Harris, an independent commission created by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has offered their own maps, plans that would likely restore Bartlett’s old seat — now held by Rep. David TroneDavid John TroneMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme Alabama Republican touts provision in infrastructure bill he voted against House GOP campaign arm expands target list after brutal night for Dems MORE (D) — to the GOP. The commission’s maps would create six heavily Democratic seats and two heavily Republican districts.
Hogan has proposed giving the independent commission the authority to draw map lines, similar to states like California, Michigan and neighboring Virginia. A poll conducted by Change Maryland, a Hogan-affiliated outside group, found more than 3 in 4 voters would favor an independent commission over a map drawn by legislators.
Democrats in the General Assembly seem disinclined to surrender their power — though the commission itself said it had more work to do before sending final proposals to the full House and Senate.
“It is our sincere intention to dramatically improve upon our current map while keeping many of the bonds that have been forged over 30 years or more of shared representation and coordination,” commission chair Karl Aro wrote in a letter introducing the drafts.