- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2011

Maryland Republicans said Monday they are still reviewing a new state-level redistricting map, but preliminary analysis shows it protects powerful Democrats and appears to lessen some fellow GOP lawmakers’ chances for re-election.

The map, which redraws the state’s 47 senatorial districts to account for population shifts in the past decade, was drafted by a committee appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley and released Friday, following months of discussion and public hearings over the summer.

Still, House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell called the process “very cloaked” and “a blatant, partisan abuse of power.”

The proposed map also addresses Maryland’s growing minority population by increasing the state’s number of majority-black senatorial districts from 10 to 12. It creates the state’s first-ever majority-Hispanic House sub-district in Prince George’s County.

Officials will hold a public hearing Thursday to take testimony on the map.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, could make changes, but is expected to submit a substantially similar map in mid-January for the General Assembly to consider.

Republicans offered few specific complaints about the map Monday, as many analysts are still digesting its overall impact. However, Mr. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican, and other party members complained that the process has been dominated by Democrats and is being rushed to approval by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

“The only thing that doesn’t surprise me is, the governor isn’t conducting the hearing on Christmas Eve,” said Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, Cecil Republican. “We still need to see the detailed maps, but there are questions about the process.”

One notable change in the proposed map would divide House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s 30th District into a two-delegate District 30A and a one-delegate District 30B.

Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, would represent 30A, while Delegate Ronald A. George, Anne Arundel Republican, who got more votes than Mr. Busch in last year’s election, would be moved into 33A.

Todd Eberly, the coordinator of public-policy studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said it appears the five-member committee drew the map to keep Democrats safe in competitive districts, particularly in Southern Maryland and Western Maryland.

He also said the district for state Sen. James Brochin, Baltimore County Democrat, was redrawn to include many conservative voters in the northern part of the county — possibly as a message to Mr. Brochin, who has at times bucked leadership to vote with Republicans.

Mr. Eberly said the map does not appear to aggressively attack many GOP lawmakers — possibly because Democrats have already built a virtual three-to-one advantage in the legislature, despite having just a two-to-one advantage in overall registered voters.

“Maryland has been so well-gerrymandered, like most states, that there isn’t much the Democratic Party could’ve done,” he said.

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