2021 | Politics

Public weighs in on redistricting maps, which would bring little change to Montgomery County

Witnesses ask General Assembly to draw map that imperils Andy Harris

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This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. Nov. 16, 2021, to add a comment from Harris.

A state legislative redistricting commission on Monday held its first public hearing on four conceptual redistricting maps that would alter the borders of all of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Nearly all of the witnesses focused on the 1st District, currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican among Maryland’s eight-member delegation in the House of Representatives.

None of the four draft maps drawn up by the Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission would result in large changes to the congressional representation of Montgomery County. Most of the county still would fall in the 8th District, currently represented by Democrat Jamie Raskin, and the 6th District, currently represented by Democrat David Trone.

But all four of the draft plans would make changes to Harris’s district, which encompasses all of the Eastern Shore. One map would change Harris’s district the most, by giving it a large portion of Democratic-leaning Anne Arundel County.

Nearly 30 witnesses at the statewide hearing asked the redistricting commission to adopt that map, or create a final map that was even less favorable to Harris. Many of those witnesses, but not all, said they currently live in the 1st District.

“Unfortunately, none of (the maps) go far enough to prevent Maryland’s insurrectionist from being re-elected again,” said Kristen Cook of Montgomery County.

One after another, witnesses criticized Harris for voting against certifying the results of the 2020 election on Jan. 6, the same day a mob of rioters tried to stop Congress from certifying that vote by storming the U.S. Capitol. Speakers also slammed Harris for defending those who tried to stop the vote and of being “too radical” for Maryland voters.

“A known insurrectionist like Andy Harris must be prevented from serving in Congress any longer,” Deborah Schillinger said.

The legislative commission worked to propose maps for the General Assembly, which will hold a special session beginning on Dec. 6 to finalize a new congressional map.

The legislative commission will hold several more hearings on its proposed political maps, including one on Thursday that will focus on proposed changes to the congressional representation of Harford and Cecil counties.

A separate panel appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan sent a competing map to the state legislature last week after making wholesale changes to the state’s political map. The Democratic-controlled General Assembly is expected to ignore that map.

In a statement his office sent Tuesday morning, Harris said: “After they reject the Governor’s nonpartisan map, the General Assembly’s decision on redistricting will be made in light of the Virginia and New Jersey election results, and the Washington Post public opinion poll of registered voters that shows Republicans with a 10% margin over Democrats. Their calculation will be based purely on whether they are willing to roll the dice and risk one or two of their incumbents in what is looking to be a very good year for Republicans nationally.”

Commission Chairman Karl Aro, the chairman of the legislative redistricting commission, said the proposed maps tried to keep most of Maryland’s residents in their current congressional districts.

But, depending on what the final political map looks like, the 8th District could lose some upcounty Democratic voters. Two of the four proposals would cut off some of Frederick County from Raskin’s district and give the 8th District a much greater part of more conservative Carroll County.