It’s Map Drawing Time. Citizens Redistricting Commission Opens Public Submissions

The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission weighed criteria and opened the door for public proposals Thursday. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Marylanders can now submit their own proposals for redistricting to the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, state officials announced Thursday.

The Maryland Department of Planning’s new submission portal allows users to map their proposals for congressional and state legislative districts, and includes instructions on how to draw districts.

Members of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission will review maps that are received by noon on Sept. 24, according to the planning department. More submissions will be accepted when that panel begins its third round of hearings in October.

The map submission portal uses redistricting data which counts incarcerated Marylanders as residents of their last known address, as required by Maryland law, according to the release.

The nine-member commission — which includes three Democrats, three Republicans and three unaffiliated voters — is set to start a new round of public hearings on Sept. 9. That hearing will be virtual.

The commission worked with Stanford Law School professor Nathaniel Persily to hash out some rough criteria for maps on Wednesday. Although the commission won’t make its redistricting proposal for some time and will consider citizens’ proposals, members said they hope to have some early drafts ready for public comment by next week.

Commission members also mulled whether to keep the Eastern Shore whole or cross the Chesapeake Bay to create a district consisting of part of Southern Maryland and the Lower Shore. Commission Member Kimberly Rose Cummings (R), a Dorchester County resident, noted that some Lower Shore residents told panelists, during an initial round of public hearings, that they have more in common with Southern Maryland residents than with residents of north and central Maryland.

There is historical precedent for crossing the Chesapeake Bay in a congressional district, as the state’s 1st Congressional District once included portions of Southern Maryland as well as the entire Eastern Shore from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. The 1st District currently includes all of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll countries.

Commission Co-chair Alexander Williams Jr. (D), a Prince George’s County resident and retired federal judge, said that rapidly developing Charles County has more in common with parts of Prince George’s County than with other parts of Southern Maryland. Commission members chose to leave both options on the table for public comment and map submissions.

As for drawing a district in Western Maryland, commission Co-chair Walter Olson (R) said the panel should look to include Carroll County with Frederick, Garrett and Allegany counties. Olson and Williams served on an emergency commission to redraw the state’s 6th Congressional District before the Supreme Court reversed a 2018 order to redraw the district. Olson said that, during the emergency commission’s run, Carroll County residents “overwhelmingly” asked to be included in a Western Maryland district.

Whether the Western Maryland district would draw from portions of northern Montgomery or Howard counties remains an open question for commission members.

None of the commission’s initial criteria are set in stone, rather they are meant to be a baseline for public comment during upcoming public hearings.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) created the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission via executive order to draw congressional and legislative maps that he will propose to the General Assembly. Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, and lawmakers will have the final say over the state’s next set of maps.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) created their own bipartisan redistricting commission, the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, to draw congressional and legislative maps. The legislative commission held its first meeting this week and is set to kick off a statewide round of public hearings on Sept. 20 with a hearing focused on Prince George’s County.

[email protected]