ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday forcefully rejected a redistricting plan approved by state lawmakers this week, excoriating the plans and its backers as “disgraceful” and “dangerous.”
The Republican governor said the Democrat-controlled map redrawing the state’s eight congressional districts continues to showcase Maryland as one of the worst gerrymandered states in the nation focused on party control.
“Being the worst in America is not the distinction we want in the great state of Maryland,” Hogan said during a press briefing Thursday inside the State House. “The actions of these politicians in Annapolis this week are a perfect example of everything that is wrong with our broken political system. It’s an unmitigated arrogance of power and Marylanders are completely fed up.”
After he blasted the map recommended for approval by the Maryland Legislative Advisory Committee comprising four Democrats and two Republicans, he stamped “VETO” on the legislation labeled House Bill 1 and drew a big “X” in red ink over a copy of the map.
Then Hogan warned the veto would just be the beginning of a challenge in state and federal court. He also wants the U.S. Department of Justice to add to a federal lawsuit filed this week challenging congressional and state legislative maps drawn by a Republican-controlled state legislature in Texas.
A grassroots organization called Fair Maps Maryland released a statement Wednesday and said it plans to seek legal measures to challenge the congressional map.
“The courts will be the final arbiter, not partisan legislators,” Hogan said Thursday. “These maps cannot and will not stand.”
More than an hour after Hogan’s press conference, lawmakers in the Senate and House of Delegates, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, voted to override his veto. The House voted 96-42 with 85 votes needed to overturn the governor’s decision. The Senate voted 32-14 and needed 29 votes.
Nine Republican delegates spoke during the override discussion, trying to convince their Democratic colleagues to sustain or support Hogan’s veto.
Most of them backed a map created by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a group appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, that they say allows for the possibility of a second Republican elected to Congress.
Del. Brenda Thiam of Washington County, the only Black Republican in the legislature, pointed out that the 6th Congressional District will now straddle four counties with various median incomes.
“When I think about people who live in Alleghany County or in my own county in Washington County and compare that to the values, beliefs, median income of people who live in Rockville or Germantown [in Montgomery County], there are not a lot of similarities or things that we share in values,” she said. “I know there is no perfect map, but the map that we have before us is just not good enough.”
The main focus for the Maryland General Assembly’s special session that began Monday and ended Thursday sought to redraw new boundaries where seven of the eight federal lawmakers in Congress are Democrats. It’s a process done every decade to manage population shifts based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 1st Congressional District, overseen by Andy Harris, the state’s only GOP member on Capitol Hill, would stretch across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into portions of Democratic neighborhoods in Anne Arundel County. The district ran north and south with a heavy GOP influence along the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.
The new map also shifts Maryland’s state capital of Annapolis in Anne Arundel into the 4th Congressional District, which Rep. Anthony Brown will vacate at the end of his term to make a bid for state attorney general. Data shows the district, which includes a portion of Prince George’s County, would house the state’s largest Black population with 419,596 out of 733,616 total residents.
The district border also extends west into Montgomery County with the communities of Colesville, Cloverly and Fairland.
“It’s not a perfect map, but I think we adhered to a lot of the feedback from constituents and residents across the state,” Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery County) said after the House adjourned and completed the special session Thursday. “We made our districts more compact and I’m glad that we got a new map across the finish line.”