ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) -- Gov. Larry Hogan is calling a special session of the Maryland General Assembly next month to adopt newly drawn legislative and congressional maps.
Hogan's office on Friday announced the governor has signed off on certified maps presented by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission. The nine-member panel was formed in January with the goal of eliminating gerrymandered districts and drawing new legislative and congressional maps for next year's elections.
In a statement, Hogan called the occasion a "great day for the State of Maryland and for democracy."
"On behalf of all the people of Maryland, I want to express our appreciation to the members of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission for their service to our state," he said. "I want to thank them for conducting their business with integrity in a completely open and transparent manner, and most especially for their incredible efforts to finally restore fairness and competitiveness to Maryland elections."
The new maps (which can be viewed here) have been sent to the General Assembly for its review before the special legislative session, which is set to begin on Dec. 6.
Over the past seven months, the commission has held 36 public meetings with more than 4,000 attendees. It provided an online mapping application portal for the public to submit maps -- and a total of 86 maps were sent in for consideration.
Before Maryland last redrew the state's congressional districts a decade ago under Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, Democrats held a 6-2 advantage over Republicans. The state's western Maryland district was changed significantly, and Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett was defeated in 2012 by Democrat John Delaney, leaving Rep. Andy Harris as the lone Republican congressman in the state.
One of the most notable differences in the map Hogan is supporting would make the western Maryland district resemble what it once was with more Republican voters.
Hogan has been an outspoken critic of the congressional and legislative maps, which have given Maryland a reputation for being one of the most gerrymandered states nationwide. His administration has unsuccessfully floated a bill to reform the state's redistricting process, and in 2018 Hogan was part of an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court over the state's 6th Congressional District.
Gerrymandering is a process by which politicians have been known to manipulate legislative maps to benefit a political party.
To address the issue, three Republicans, three Democrats and three Independents were named to a nine-person board to review the legislative and congressional maps. The panel gathered input from dozens of public meetings and considered 86 submissions before coming up with the newly drawn maps.
Legislative leaders, who petitioned Hogan to call the special session earlier in the day, created a separate panel months ago that is still working on its maps.
House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, said lawmakers will look at what the governor presents. She also noted that the panel she and Senate President Bill Ferguson are on is still working and receiving input from the public. The panel includes several other state lawmakers, including two Republicans.
"We haven't finished our process yet," Jones said Friday.
Under the Article III of the Maryland Constitution, the governor presents a map with new boundaries for state legislative districts after each U.S. Census, accounting for population changes. The plan must have 47 senators and 141 delegates in the state legislature.
The Maryland General Assembly has final approval over district lines and can adopt its own plan 45 days into the regular legislative session, which starts Jan. 12, 2022.
The congressional map that ultimately ends up getting approved by the legislature would be subject to the governor's veto, which would take a three-fifths vote to override.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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