Anti-Gerrymandering Group With Ties To Hogan Requests Legislative Redistricting Commission Records

    Fair Maps Maryland, a group formed by a pair of former lawmakers to support maps proposed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, submitted a sweeping public records request aimed at the General Assembly’s Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission on Thursday, according to a press release from the group.

    Fair Maps Maryland was formed by former communications strategist to Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) Douglass V. Mayer, former Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman (R) and former state Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) to support the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which Hogan created earlier this year to draft congressional and legislative maps that he will submit to the General Assembly.

    The General Assembly, where Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, will have the final say over redistricting in Maryland. Legislative leaders created the bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission in July to draw up their own congressional and legislative maps.

    Not only Mayer, but Brochin and Kittleman also have ties to the governor: Brochin endorsed Hogan in 2018, and Hogan appointed Kittleman to the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission after he was ousted as county executive by Calvin B. Ball III (D).

    The Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission is conducting a series of statewide public hearings ahead of drawing draft congressional and legislative maps, but some Marylanders who testified at that commission’s public hearings have said the legislative panel needs to release draft maps for public comment before the hearings are over. The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission has already released congressional and legislative maps, and deliberates changes to those maps at public work sessions.

    Fair Maps Maryland’s public records request is aimed at Commission Chair Karl Aro, a former director of the Department of Legislative Services, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), the Department of Legislative Services and the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission itself.

    Requested documents include information about any map created by or reviewed by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission over the past six months, contracts with consultants and commission-related documents. The commission hasn’t produced draft maps yet, although at a public hearing earlier this month Aro said he hopes the commission will produce draft maps by Nov. 15. Aro said the pandemic-related delay in U.S. Census redistricting data is to blame for the panel’s time constraints.

    Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission member Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) noted at that public hearing that the commission is set to conclude its public hearings on Nov. 18, but Aro said the public will also be able to comment when proposed district maps come up for committee hearings in the General Assembly’s special and regular sessions.

    The document also focuses specifically on Aro, requesting his emails and text messages related to redistricting over the past six months, according to the release.

    Ferguson said at an initial commission meeting in late August that the commission will undertake a “fair and transparent process,” and Jones said that commission members “will follow the advice of counsel at every step, making sure that the rights of all Marylanders are protected.”

    Legislative leaders are planning a special session in December to handle congressional redistricting. Both the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission and the Legislative Redistricting Advisory commission are set to wrap up their respective public meetings in November.

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    Bennett Leckrone
    Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.