Congressional map (copy) (copy)

The 6th Congressional District is shown above in orange and the 8th Congressional District in green. The two districts currently divide Frederick County, but an emergency redrafting of the state’s congressional map ahead of the 2020 election could return Frederick County entirely to the 6th District.

ANNAPOLIS — An emergency commission assigned to redraw Maryland’s congressional map ahead of the 2020 election has given preliminary approval to return all of Frederick County to the 6th District.

The proposed map would unify Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, and portions of Carroll and Montgomery counties into one congressional district. The commission settled on this concept because it will affect the smallest number of existing congressional districts while meeting a federal order to redraw the 6th District.

The solution, however, may not be as elegant for the rest of the state.

The challenge of redrawing the 6th District alone is that it will inevitably require other congressional boundaries to be shifted as well. The commission considered on Wednesday whether it should make small changes to all eight districts to fix the map or limit its changes to two districts — namely, the 6th and 8th districts that currently divide Frederick County in half.

“I would like to see less destruction to the others,” said retired U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams. This became the consensus opinion.

Williams, a registered Democrat, is co-chairing Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) Emergency Commission on Sixth District Gerrymandering with Walter Olson, who is a registered Republican from Frederick County and senior fellow at the CATO Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. The commission also includes League of Women Voters Administrative Director Ashley Oleson, who is unaffiliated, and six community members.

Williams cautioned that the commission could open a “hornet’s nest” of lawsuits if it overstepped and redrew all the districts instead of just the 6th District. The General Assembly may also not approve the map if too many districts change, Oleson said.

The design of the current congressional map — which has been in place since 2013 — makes it difficult to keep the existing districts intact, though. Many of the congressional districts “snake” across multiple counties to reach populated areas, including the 3rd District, which borders the proposed changes to the 6th District.

“You may think 3 is the worst district ever designed, but there are ways to make it worse,” Olson said.

He knows this from test manipulations of the 6th District with publicly available mapping software from the Maryland Department of Planning. He and others on the commission noted that small manipulations often led to a “cascade” of changes to the other congressional districts.

For instance, when some tried to pull all of Carroll County into the 6th District — as it historically was — it required then shifting the borders of the 1st District, which covers the Eastern Shore and northeast Maryland. Then, to fix that district required changes to districts 2, 3, 4 or 7.

“The map is so messed up, in so many ways. It’s like an auto accident where you’re doing surgery on the shoulder and the leg is amputated,” Olson said in an interview after the meeting.

What has also become obvious through the test maps is there is no way to keep all Maryland counties intact while also preserving as many congressional districts as possible.

The majority of the commission agreed it did not want to split counties into multiple congressional districts, but due to the state’s geography and how its population is clustered, it will be impossible not to divide some counties while meeting the strict population requirements for congressional districts. Each congressional district must have an equal population, which for Maryland is approximately 721,000 people.

Montgomery County has a population of over 1 million people, so there is no way to keep the county in a single congressional district.

But some potential changes could also make the splitting of counties worse than it already is, Olson said. Certain scenarios would divide Montgomery County into four congressional districts — rather than three — and others would break Anne Arundel County into five districts, instead of the four districts that exist now.

“We want to minimize where we’re splitting counties,” said Matt Douglas, an unaffiliated voter on the commission from Montgomery County.

The commission is reviewing approximately seven maps submitted by the public. It will continue to accept map submissions online for one more week, until Feb. 27.

The commission is leaning toward moving the portions of Frederick and Carroll counties assigned to the 8th District back into the 6th District, and extending the 6th District down to Germantown in Montgomery County. The 8th District would then absorb the remaining area, including Montgomery Village and Gaithersburg.

It may also consider a map that would bring the “four corners” where Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard counties meet and pull the rural section of Howard County into the 6th District. But this change would affect the 7th District and potentially others as well.

Due to inclement weather, the commission met via conference call Wednesday. It will meet in Annapolis next week to vote on a final map, which will then to sent to the governor. The map must be on the governor’s desk by March 4.

In his executive order forming the emergency commission, Hogan outlined that there would be a public comment period on the proposed map through March 26 and the map would be finalized by April 2.

In the interim, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a legal challenge from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) to the order to redraw the 6th District. The case — Lamone v. Benisek — is on the court’s calendar for oral arguments on March 26.

“We’re going to do all we can to meet our deadline,” Williams said.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(40) comments

mrnatural1

Instead of gerrymandering to guarantee a dem or rep represents a given district, they should be drawn so they are as close to 50/50% as possible.

At least that way everyone has a reasonable chance that their guy/gal will win.

There's little worse than being stuck in a district and/or a state where the other tribe always wins. For example, being a liberal in the old 6th district or a conservative in the 8th. A liberal in Texas or a conservative in MD or NJ.

As someone else said, we should abolish the Electoral College. As it is now, with the "winner take all" system we have, many people are disenfranchised. Their vote for POTUS gets "counted" but it does not count.

The situation is so bad that presidential candidates all but ignore the states that are solid 'blue' or 'red'. Everyone knows which candidate will win those states. The battle is always in the swing states.

That's the way it is with many congressional districts. In many cases that cannot be avoided, but where it can be rectified it should be.

bosco

What's wrong with voting by zip code or school districts? Too easy? Enlighten me.

public-redux

For starters, each CD in a state has to have about the same number of people in it (one person, one vote). In MD, school districts are coterminous with counties. The chances that contiguous counties can be aggregated in such a way as to yield equal populations is remote. Probably the same, to a lesser degree, for ZIP codes.

But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose one could constitute CD-6 with ZIP codes in a way that closely resembles the current boundaries; i.e., the panhandle and parts of FredCo and MontCo. Would that make you happy? Prolly not.

bosco

Thanks, public, I didn't think about that. And thus we have gerrymandering.

mrnatural1

To clarify, ALL congressional districts across the country are supposed to have about the same number of people. That number is determined by dividing the (ever growing) number of Americans by 435 representatives.

So currently that's about 711,000 people per district. There are a few variations in states like MT and WY, but most are close to that 711,000 number.

Of course, gerrymandering is done by both tribes/parties for political gain. There's no monopoly on that.

Ideally, districts would be determined by an apolitical panel -- or at least a balanced panel -- and, where possible, would strive for a 50/50 mix of dems and reps so that candidates from both parties would have a chance to win. Of course, some areas are "dark blue" or "dark red" so that's impossible. In those cases, members of the 'minority tribe' do not have any real representation.

Frayou

I’d like to question why O’Malley & partisan legislators who manipulated the process to improperly redistrict “gerrymandering” voting boundary are not subject to criminal justice system in Maryland. Suspect current legislative control or composition have created a “stacked deck” and likely will never happen.

public-redux

What crime could one charge them with?

riccicc

Just return the map back to the way it originally was. You know, "restore original settings."

Comment deleted.
DickD

Calling names when you don't have your facts right, Dave? Oh silly, me.[innocent]

Comment deleted.
public-redux

des, as DickD noted, you've got the facts wrong.

From the source of all truth about the Trump administration:

"Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Tuesday claimed he unequivocally rejected deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s suggestion about wearing a wire in the White House, saying it was “absolutely not” a good idea."

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mccabe-rosensteins-offer-to-wear-a-wire-was-absolutely-not-a-good-idea

Mickey7

What is the discussion about Andrew McCabe's book have to do with redistricting in Maryland?

public-redux

When someone wants to make a comment about a topic that hasn't been mentioned in
a letter, article, or column, what is the appropriate place to do so?

Dwasserba

It's called muttering under your breath, and the best location is from your favorite chair. You're welcome.

public-redux

Thank you!

Comment deleted.
DickD

Dave, I listened to McCabe. It was McCabe that would not approve the wire.

awteam2000

Aren’t district lines redrawn, block by block, once per decade, after a Census? So will the district be redrawn again after the 2020 Census?

Comment deleted.
Mickey7

[offtopic] Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Comment deleted.
awteam2000

His name is Rosenstein.

Andrew McCade gave a presentation of his concerns to the “gang of eight” before opening the counter intelligence surveillance of the president.

LeonardKeepers

the only people that benefit from all of this stuff is/are the politicians.

mrnatural1

Redistricting can have a big effect on ordinary citizens.

We went from the old conservative 6th district with Roscoe Bartlett as our rep to the more liberal 8th district.

The 6th is now democratic as well.

Big changes.

Some pols win, some lose.

Comment deleted.
DickD

You will get them, if Hogan gets his way.

DickD

The Governor is trying to control the legislative body. This is beyond his Executive Authority.

CDReid

So what are your thoughts in O'Malley making this mess in the first place, Dick?

gabrielshorn2013

I was thinking the same thing CD. O’Mally admitted he did this for political reasons, even though it did not reflect the political views of the majority of previous district 6 voters. His big ambition was to win another congressional seat for the Democrats, and curry favor with the Democratic elite. Epic fail.

DickD

I am a Democrat, not an O'Malley fan. O'Malley is too liberal for me

rbtdt5

DickD, are you saying that O'Malley was wrong for doing this and Hogan is wrong for correcting it? CD asked how you feel about O'Malley doing this, not how you feel about O'Malley. Do you agree this should have been done? If not, shouldn't it be corrected?

DickD

Rb, why do you always twist my statements into something else? Can't you read? I said he is too liberal, not anything else!

rbtdt5

Do you agree with O'Malley redistricting? If not, do you agree with Hogan fixing it? I don't care if you liked O"Malley or not, I'm asking a simple question. Ok, two simple questions. Are they too hard for you to answer? Now three.

DickD

CD, it was the legislature, O'Malley could not do it without them. And nothing has changed, except the Governor who does not have the authority to change it alone, either.

jerseygrl42

Its about time omalley is over ruled for what he perpetrated on this county

Dwasserba

[thumbup]omg I agree with jersey

MrSniper

No more gerrymandering! Republicans, Democrats...all voters deserve to control their own community.

DickD

Do away with the Electoral College then and return us to a true democracy.

Comment deleted.
dabittle

It's about time! However, if you'd (sevenstones1000) like to be represented my Montgomery County liberals, well then, by all means move yourself down to Montgomery Countlandia. Where, awaiting you are many progressive enticements including higher taxes, towering real-estate prices, elevated per-square-foot populations, incorrigible traffic and many other promises of ever-more government handouts or near-handouts. Yes, by all means, write us if you find non-government work...presuming of course, you do work for a livening?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.