Lawmaker: Petition against congressional districts’ map has enough support to continue -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 2:25 p.m. June 1.

Organizers say they have enough signatures to continue their drive to put the congressional redistricting map before the state’s voters in November.

It will be a long road, though.

Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Dist. 2B) of Hagerstown turned in 28,477 signatures Thursday night. At least 18,579 of the signatures must be validated by the State Board of Elections for the ballot measure to survive.

Organizers will have to gather an additional 37,157 signatures by June 30, the next deadline.

Parrott acknowledged that the referendum drive got off to a slow start but said it has built momentum in the past few weeks.

“People want to sign the petition once they see the maps,” he said. “It’s dividing communities all across our state, which is unacceptable.”

The congressional redistricting plan introduced by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and passed by the General Assembly carved up Montgomery County, pushed Democratic Rep. Donna F. Edwards’ 4th District into Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, extended Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr.’s (D) 8th District into Frederick and Carroll counties, stretched the 3rd District represented by Rep. John Sarbanes (D) into Montgomery from the Baltimore area and pressed the Republican-held 6th District farther into Montgomery.

Changes to the 6th District, a seat held by Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R), have made the race competitive for the first time in 20 years.

The Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a group that advocates for political districts that are a 'mirror reflection' of the black community, also supports the effort to overturn the map. The group says the new districts dilute black and Hispanic voting strength and break up communities.

The majority of signatures turned in Thursday came from Anne Arundel, Washington and Frederick counties.

If voters overturn the map, the governor and General Assembly would have to create a new one.

In 1962, the League of Women Voters led a successful petition drive to overturn the 1961 congressional districts’ map. Three years later, the court drew new congressional districts.

Despite some bipartisan support for the petition drive, Democratic Party leaders criticized the effort Thursday night.

“In the face of dwindling electoral success and political irrelevancy, Maryland Republicans have turned to the petition as a means to circumvent legislative procedure and impose their partisan agenda,” Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis said in a statement.

Republican lawmakers also have led the drives to put referendums of the Dream Act and same-sex marriage on the November ballot.

Only 18 bills passed by the General Assembly have been put to a possible veto by voters since the power of referendum was added to the Maryland Constitution in 1915.

The last ballot question in Maryland was in 1992, when the state’s abortion law, which codified the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, was affirmed by voters, 62 percent to 38 percent.

dgaines@gazette.net