ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates will have the final say on approving new legislative redistricting boundaries, which could be done this month and go into effect before the June primary election.
Before that happens, the overwhelmingly Democratic majority expects lengthy discussions Thursday from their Republican colleagues, which plan to present amendments to the map approved last week by the state Senate with a 32-14 vote.
A House committee received the map and approved it among the Democratic majority 18-5 on Tuesday.
Lawmakers must assess and approve new legislative and congressional maps, a process done every decade when new census data comes out to assess shifts in population. Maryland’s 2021 population of 6.2 million increased by 7% from 2010 and is the fourth-most diverse in the nation.
The legislature, composed of 147 delegates and 41 senators, received its recommendations from six of its colleagues who served on the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission. The seventh member, Karl Aro, chaired the commission and worked as a former executive director for the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services.
One major change to the map could be Baltimore City losing a Senate district and another district in the city crossing over into Towson in Baltimore County.
In Prince George’s County, District 23 — currently split into two subdistricts of A and B in the Bowie area — may become one district with three delegates and one senator.
In the northern part of the county, District 47B, which includes Langley Park and Adelphi, could remain the state’s only majority-Latino district.
“Hearings were held all across the state. Every resident had the opportunity to weigh in about what they wanted their lines to look like, their communities to look like,” said Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, a Montgomery County Democrat. “I think the lines reflected the census changes. The map that we put forward really reflects the process that was outlined. I’m looking forward to vigorous debate on the floor.”
Republicans have argued the map provides additional advantages such as manipulating certain districts to ensure more partisan races occur in the primaries versus general elections. Maryland holds closed primaries, which means Independent and unaffiliated voters can only choose candidates in nonpartisan races such as local school boards.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan presented an alternative proposal, accusing Democratic leadership of gerrymandering, or rigging the state’s electoral boundaries in favor of one political party.
“Just draw fair maps so that all citizens can be represented properly and not favor any political party,” said Del. Brenda Thiam of Washington County, the only Black Republican in the legislature. “I think there’s going to be some healthy debate [Thursday].”