Many Marylanders would be voting in new congressional districts under new map

U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger has never represented Carroll County. The veteran Democrat is based in Baltimore County, and his congressional district currently also includes pieces of Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties.

But under the Maryland General Assembly Democrats’ newly unveiled redistricting map, created in response to a state judge’s decision throwing out the old map, the worlds of Ruppersberger and other U.S. House members — or at least their districts — are changing practically overnight.

The plan, which still requires approval of state lawmakers and the judge, reconfigures Ruppersberger’s territory to include much of Carroll County and Baltimore County, but none of Anne Arundel, Howard or Harford. The district also would continue to represent a sliver of Baltimore City.

The changes are among many, large and small, crafted by Democrats in response to the judge’s order scrapping an initial Democratic plan approved last year because it was too gerrymandered.

The new map could aid Republicans marginally, according to an analysis on the fivethirtyeight.com website. Democrats currently hold seven of the state’s congressional seats, and Republicans one. Republicans have long complained that Democrats packed too many Republicans into the 1st Congressional District seat of Republican Rep. Andy Harris, leaving too few GOP voters elsewhere in the state.

Under the new map, Harris would maintain an advantage and Democrats would be favored to hold six other seats, according to the analysis. But it said the sprawling 6th Congressional District in the central and western parts of the state would become “highly competitive” and lean Republican. That seat is currently held by Rep. David Trone, a Democrat and the co-founder of the Total Wine & More alcohol retailer, who is in his second term.

Trone could not be reached Tuesday through his spokeswoman.

Analysts say the new map has a cleaner look than either the rejected plan — which the judge said was too partisan — or the current configuration approved a decade ago.

Gone is an appendage, added by Democrats in December, that would have extended Harris’ Eastern Shore district across the Bay Bridge and into an area of Anne Arundel County with more Democratic voters.

Also redrawn is the elongated 3rd Congressional District, whose irregular shape almost defies description. The district, held by Democrat John Sarbanes, would now be contained in Howard County and parts of Anne Arundel and Carroll counties. It currently touches four counties: Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Montgomery.

“The wildest thing about this map is that the 3rd District is no longer wild,” said political strategist Sophia Silbergeld of Adeo Advocacy in Baltimore. “Now it looks like a straight-up, normal congressional district.”

She noted that Sarbanes, like some other incumbents, would no longer live in his home district if he wins reelection. That can be awkward politically, but not a disqualifier. He lives in Baltimore County.

Here are some other features of the new map, according to information provided by Senate President Bill Ferguson and others:

  • Baltimore City, which previously had three congressional districts, would now have two.
  • Frederick County would be located entirely within a single congressional district.
  • Montgomery County, previously divided among four congressional districts, would be represented by three.
  • Harford County would be entirely within the 1st Congressional District.
  • Anne Arundel County would have fewer congressional districts, with two.
  • The 7th Congressional District seat held by Baltimore Democrat Kweisi Mfume would no longer include some of Howard County.
  • The 8th Congressional District seat held by Democrat Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County would no longer include Carroll County.

Judge Lynne A. Battaglia issued her ruling Friday in a pair of Anne Arundel Circuit Court cases brought by GOP lawmakers and voters. In ordering the legislature to swiftly redraw the statewide map, the judge agreed with expert witness testimony that Republicans would have been “substantially adversely impacted” by the one passed in December by the Democratic legislature.

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Democratic leaders in the General Assembly made the replacement map public Monday night, and members of Congress and their staffs — as well as election challengers — immediately began poring over the new boundary lines. The state Senate approved it Tuesday and a House vote was expected Wednesday.

Battaglia also must approve the map. If she does, the court would set a timetable for implementing it. It was unclear Tuesday if the state would appeal her original ruling, as had been seemingly suggested Monday.

Ferguson and other Democrats said during a Tuesday morning meeting of the Senate’s redistricting committee that the map achieved the objectives stated by Battaglia. Those included making sure districts were made as compact as possible — rather than irregularly shaped — and that they respected natural boundaries and the borders of political subdivisions like counties and cities.

“They are significantly more compact,” Ferguson said Tuesday of the new districts. “This map was drawn first and foremost with the obligation of trying to meet the court order within five days.”

Republicans again pushed Monday for the General Assembly to instead use a map drawn last year by an independent commission organized by Gov. Larry Hogan. The Republican governor had appointed the panel of Republicans, Democrats and independents to draw an alternate set of proposed electoral maps, which the governor submitted to the legislature.

The legislature rejected that map last year, and it was not resurrected by Democrats following Battaglia’s ruling.

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