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Hogan vetoes map, General Assembly overrides it

Gov. Larry Hogan took less than 24 hours to veto the Congressional redistricting map the General Assembly sent him Wednesday and the General Assembly took barely another two hours to override that veto.

Hogan had six days to issue his veto, but he said in a news conference Thursday afternoon he did it quickly, knowing it would be overridden, so anti-gerrymandering groups could file suit.

“These gerrymandered maps will be challenged in both the federal and state courts,” he said. “These maps disenfranchise voters, they violate the Voting Rights Act, and they are in violation of numerous state and federal laws.”

Fair Maps Maryland, an anti-gerrymandering group run by a former Hogan aide, announced yesterday it plans “to take aggressive legal action” against the map.

In a blistering news conference, Hogan called the map, drafted by legislative analysts and adopted by a commission of legislative leaders, a “perfect example of the arrogance of power.”

“This Congressional map, drawn in back rooms, by party bosses in Annapolis, makes a mockery of our democracy,” Hogan charged. “And it's an embarrassment to all that our state stands for.”

He pointed to a map drafted by a bi-partisan commission he appointed as one that was a model of transparency, fairness and accountability.

“But it's been made crystal clear this week that the legislature has rigged the process and predetermined the result from the outset to ignore the commission's maps,” he said. “These politicians drew their own districts in secret behind closed doors.”

The House of Delegates convened barely a half hour after the governor’s press conference to take up the veto. For the most part, Democrats sat silent while Republicans railed against a map they said threatens the electoral chances of Andy Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland’s Congressional delegation.

Susan McComas, of Harford County, recalled a time when Maryland’s delegation was split evenly, four and four, then changed to 6-2 with a Democratic majority and 7-1 after the last redistricting.

“And now with this veto override, there will be none,” she said. “This map is a mockery to allow for the diversity of philosophy, thought and opinion. Groupthink does not make good policy.”

Christopher Adams, a Republican from the lower Eastern Shore, said the outcome was never in doubt.

“The Governor vetoes the bill, we would likely override that, shortly the Senate will follow and almost surely it will be handed to a judge to decide for us,” he said. “And I believe that that is a failure.”

Shortly afterward, the same pattern continued in the Senate. Justin Ready, the Republican whip, said the way the districts are drawn leaves people in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore wanting a representative who can make their needs the primary focus.

“I imagine a lot of Montgomery County constituents feel the same way, that the lines running in and out with no real rhyme or reason other than the sort of obvious, perhaps unspoken in this chamber,” he said. “But the obvious focus is on trying to get to a map that is the political outcome that you want.”

Craig Zucker, of Montgomery County, was the only Senate Democrat to speak for the map.

He said it was developed in a fair and transparent process and that the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission traveled “countless miles” to hear from hundreds of Marylanders. The map, he said, demonstrates a commitment to the federal Voting Rights Act.

“I believe that this was a transparent process,” he told the Senate. “And we're doing what we can to make sure that people have their voices heard.”

Both houses overwhelmingly overrode the veto on party line votes, setting the stage for legal challenges.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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