State Watch

Maryland Democrats, Hogan reach redistricting deal

Maryland Democrats have reached a deal with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to implement new congressional district map lines that could give Republicans the ability to win at least one of the state’s eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, ending one of the last battles over political boundary lines that remained after last year’s decennial Census.

Hogan on Monday agreed to sign congressional district lines approved late last week, after a state judge threw out a previous map passed last year by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. In exchange, Democrats and Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) agreed to drop their appeal of the judge’s ruling.

“It’s a tremendous victory for democracy and for free and fair elections in Maryland,” Hogan told reporters in Annapolis. “I think gerrymandering is a cancer on our democracy regardless of which party does it.”

The initial maps, passed in December, would have added thousands of Democratic voters in Anne Arundel County to an Eastern Shore district currently held by Rep. Andy Harris (R), connected only by the Bay Bridge. It represented one of the most aggressive gerrymanders of the redistricting cycle as Democrats made a play to win control of Maryland’s entire delegation.

Legislators overrode Hogan’s veto of that first version. But the judge’s ruling last month threw their plans into disarray.

To comply with the judge’s orders, Democrats approved a new map last week that left Harris’s district largely untouched, aside from population adjustments on its northern border. That new map also made significant changes to a district held by Rep. David Trone (D), whose heavily Democratic seat is now likely to be much more competitive.

The bill that legislators passed would have snapped the more aggressive map back into play if a higher court had overruled Judge Lynne Battaglia’s decision.

But Frosh, who had been defending the legislature’s first maps, dropped the appeal.

“We are pleased Gov. Hogan has agreed to sign the proposed congressional redistricting map approved by the General Assembly. This map, like the one previously passed by the General Assembly, is constitutional and fair,” Frosh said in a statement. “Both sides have agreed to dismiss their appeals, and our state can move forward to the primary election.”

Hogan said the new maps were not perfect. A decade ago, Democrats substantially redrew a Republican-leaning district in western Maryland, ousting then-Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) in the process. But Hogan said the version he planned to sign was a step in the right direction.

“It’s miles away from the really incredibly gerrymandered map that was thrown out by the court,” Hogan said.

Maryland was one of two states where aggressive Democratic gerrymanders lost in court last month. A New York judge nixed Democratic maps there last week, though most Democrats believe they will win in subsequent appeals.

Several Republican-drawn maps in other states have been struck down by courts in recent months, including in North Carolina and Ohio. A Kansas court is hearing arguments Monday over the Republican-drawn map that slices up a seat held by Rep. Sharice Davids (D), and some expect litigation in other states to drag on for months or years.

The deal in Maryland is a win for Hogan, who has campaigned against gerrymanders for several years. Hogan set up an alternative citizen’s commission to draw its own maps, though the legislature ignored that submission.

Last week, Hogan signed a major package of tax cuts, including cuts on taxes paid by retired couples and sales tax exemptions on children’s products like diapers, car seats and baby bottles.

Tags Andy Harris Brian Frosh gerrymander Larry Hogan Larry Hogan Maryland Redistricting
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