The Maryland Senate gave its approval Wednesday to a plan to redraw the boundaries for the state’s eight congressional maps.

The plan, labeled House Bill 1, passed on a 32-15 party-line vote and now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for final approval.

Before he voted, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) compared this year’s map to one created nearly a decade ago as “more fair, more balanced, more compact, more contiguous, more protective … and the people of Maryland should be proud of this map.”

Ferguson’s Republican colleagues disagreed.

Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, who represents Somerset, Wicomico and Worchester counties on the Eastern Shore, said that before heading into this week’s special session, she sought the advice of her mother, who she said told her to be “fair.”

“We need to think about fairness,” Carozza said. “It’s been disappointing. It’s been frustrating and really unacceptable that the legislative committee did not consider the work of the citizen’s commission.”

The process to work on a congressional map happens every decade based on U.S. Census data and shifts in population.

A major change would stretch the 1st Congressional District across the Chesapeake Bay into portions of Democratic neighborhoods in Anne Arundel County. The district currently runs north and south with a heavy GOP influence along the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.

The new map, created by a Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee (composed of four Democrats and two Republicans), would also shift 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.

Seven of the eight districts are represented by Democrats. Rep. Andy Harris, who represents the 1st Congressional District along the Eastern Shore and is a Donald Trump supporter, is the only GOP member from Maryland on Capitol Hill.

Another map created by a Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a nonpartisan group appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, allowed a possible district to receive competition for possibly a second Republican elected to Congress.

Senate Republicans said hundreds of people who spoke and presented written testimony during virtual sessions supported the commission’s map.

A few senators also highlighted a Princeton University “Gerrymandering Project” that released a report card last month on Maryland’s redistricting efforts and gave the citizens commission an “A” on partisan fairness. The four maps from the state legislative commission, however, received an “F.”

Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro, who served on the legislative commission, said the group had opportunities to make the maps less competitive, but chose not to.

“House Bill 1 presents a map that allows this incredible state to respect and honor the intent of the Voting Rights Act by allowing not just minority voters to elect their preferred candidate, but every voter in the state of Maryland the opportunity to elect their preferred candidate,” she said.

After the Senate vote, grassroots organization Fair Maps Maryland said it plans to seek legal measures to challenge the congressional map.

“It’s a sad day in Maryland,” group spokesman Doug Mayer, a former communications manager for Hogan, said in a statement. “The General Assembly has ignored the will of the overwhelming majority of Marylanders, and they are violating state and federal lawWe look forward to seeing Governor Hogan veto this ridiculous and unconstitutional map as soon as possible.”

Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene at 2 p.m. Thursday to possibly end this week’s special session with the selection of a new state treasurer. Del. Dereck Davis (D-District 25) of Prince George’s County is the apparent front-runner to replace Nancy Kopp, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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