O'Malley appoints state redistricting committee

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July 11, 2011|By Kevin Dayhoff

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O'Malley announced the make-up of his five-member Redistricting Advisory Committee on the Fourth of July holiday.

The announcement of the committee first appeared on the governor's website July 5 and also noted the first meeting of the committee — the next day, July 6, in Annapolis.

The committee is charged with drafting a legislative and congressional redistricting plan for the state.

Jeanne Hitchcock will chair the committee. Hitchcock, who serves as the governor's secretary of appointments, previously worked with then-Baltimore Mayor O'Malley as a deputy-mayor, and worked on the redistricting process that created single-member districts in the city.

The committee also includes Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.; Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael Busch; James King, a former state delegate (2007-11) from District 33A in Anne Arundel County; and Maryland Stadium Authority member Richard Stewart, who is also president and CEO of Montgomery Mechanical Services.

The state constitution requires Maryland to redraw its congressional and legislative district lines every 10 years, following the U.S. census, to maintain equal population.

The July start for the committee is a tad behind schedule. The official state redistricting and reapportionment timeline notes that the committee should be formed by April-May 2011 and begin conducting public hearings by late spring-summer 2011.

In 2001, under then-Governor Parris N. Glendening, the five-member Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee was appointed on May 31, 2001. Public hearings had begun on June 27, 2001. That committee was chaired by then-Secretary of State John T. Willis, a Carroll County native.

The General Assembly website also notes that by law, the "Governor introduces a legislative districting plan as a joint resolution on the first day of the regular session of the General Assembly," on Jan. 11, 2012.

By Feb. 14, 2012, the "Governor's legislative plan automatically becomes law if the General Assembly does not enact its own plan."

However, the General Assembly website reports "The Governor is not legally required to draft a congressional plan, however, the Governor traditionally introduces a congressional plan to the General Assembly for consideration. This year, a special session is anticipated to finalize congressional districts in time for the 2012 election cycle."

The Baltimore Sun reported the General Assembly is expected to call a special session in mid-October to consider the governor's congressional map, in time for the 2012 presidential election; state legislative districts will take shape early next year.

The Sun also reported that the redistricting commission is considering a "truncated" public hearing schedule, with eight or nine meetings around the state instead of the traditional 12.

The Sun's John Fritze wrote that, "Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Southern Maryland lawmaker and second-highest-ranking Democrat in the House, said he and other Democratic members of the delegation are working on their own redistricting proposal, which they intend to submit to O'Malley.

"Democrats enjoy a 2-1 advantage in voter registration in Maryland but have used redistricting to seize a 6-2 majority in the state's House delegation," wrote Fritze.

The 1st District, where Democrats and Republicans are about evenly split, was home to moderate Republican Wayne Gilchrest for 18 years.

"Maryland's 1st District includes the Eastern Shore as well as portions of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Harford counties. (Dr. Andy) Harris, the Baltimore County Republican who beat Democratic incumbent (and 1990 McDaniel College graduate) Frank Kratovil with a better than 12 percent margin in 2010."

Hampstead businessman Chris Cavey, who also serves as the first vice chair of the Maryland Republican Party recently wrote in TheTentacle.com, "Maryland is currently the home of two of the Top 10 most gerrymandered congressional districts in the country…

"Expect to see both Republican congressmen (Rep. Andrew Harris in the 1st and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th District) drawn out of their districts. Anticipate GOP dominate areas of the state either diluted with hard core Democrat voters (Harris' district) or packed with every possible Republican leaning precinct into a giant district, spanning the breath of the Mason-Dixon."

The last time the state redrew its district lines, in 2002, then-delegate and now state Sen. Joe Getty (Dist. 5-Carroll and Baltimore counties) was one of the petitioners who challenged then-Gov. Parris Glendening's legislative redistricting plan in the Maryland Court of Appeals.

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