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A closer look at the opposition to the legislative redistricting maps in Maryland

LRAC maps likely to be passed, over MCRC maps
Posted: 11:48 AM, Jan 17, 2022
Updated: 2022-01-18 08:46:20-05
LRAC screenshot.jpg

BALTIMORE — Two Republican lawmakers served on the 6-person committee that redrew the Maryland maps.

Both Senator Bryan Simonaire and Delegate Jason Buckel are in leadership positions in their respective chambers, which is how they got the invite on to the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee or LRAC.

And while they appreciated the chance to be a part of the process, they both felt that LRAC process fell short of the ideal.

"I wanted a more fair process," says Simonaire. "Much like the Citizens Commission, where that was built towards consensus where they had three Republicans, three Democrats and three independents."

Buckel, had a similar response, "I think that Governor Hogan's commission process was was a pretty good attempt and effort."

The two men are referring to the Maryland Citizen's Redistricting Commission, created by Republican Governor Larry Hogan in an effort to take the politics out of the process.

“These fair maps call for districts that are geographically compact, that do not take into account how citizens are registered to vote, how they voted in the past, or what political party—if any—they happen to belong to,” said Governor Hogan.
- January 12, 2022

Both sets of maps are now in front of a joint-committee of the General Assembly, where it's expected that the LRAC map will pass with super-majorities of Democrats in both the House of Delegates and Senate.

They meet on Tuesday, January 18 at 3pm and will vote immediately after the hearing on both bills.

Senator Simonaire and Delegate Buckel both voted against recommending the final draft of the map to the General Assembly.

Buckel explained why he found this map to be problematic.

"One of my biggest concerns is we did not adopt uniform single member districts," he tells WMAR-2 News in an interview.

What this means, he explained, is that depending on where you live in Maryland, you might have one, two or three representatives in the House of Delegates.

"It's still not based upon what's right for the people. It's based upon what's right for the politicians," Buckel adds.

Senator Simonaire says he was frustrated that he felt like everyday Marylanders weren't being heard.

"This was one of the hardest assignments I've ever had to deal with being in the Senate," he says. "We went out to 12 different public hearings during the time and I would hear people, both Democrat, Republican and even independents plead with us to stop gerrymandering."

He adds, "I knew that the commission was going to ignore their plea and that was heartbreaking to me."

LRAC Final Map (2).png

Simonaire says that one of the main issues that he sees with the map are the differences in distribution of population within each district - leading to some overwhelmed representatives.

"Those who had underrepresented areas had fewer people calling, it was easier on their staff. But those that are over-represented and packed, they had 10,000 more potential calls coming in. It's not fair to the constituent and it's not fair to the representative."

While floor debate is expected on these maps, it's also expected that the LRAC recommended map will pass the legislature fairly easily.

"The Democratic leadership does not think they will be held accountable for gerrymandering maps," says Senator Simonaire.

WMAR-2 News reached out to the four Democratic members of the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee to discuss the redistricting process and wasn't granted an interview with any of them.