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Public Has A Week To Comment On Redistricting

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley said Tuesday he plans to introduce a map for congressional redistricting that won’t be much different from the map recommended by the panel he appointed.

O’Malley, a Democrat, released a statement on the panel’s recommendations a day after lawmakers were briefed on the redistricting plan, which will go to the General Assembly in an Oct. 17 special session.

“I have been fully briefed and it is my intention to introduce a map that is substantially similar to the map submitted by the committee,” O’Malley said.

The proposal has angered Republicans, because it makes big changes to the state’s 6th congressional district long held by the GOP in western Maryland. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who has held the seat since 1993, would see his district change from having about 20,000 Montgomery County residents to about 350,000, an amount that would comprise about half of his entire district. The change would make the district more competitive for a Democrat.

Maryland residents have a week to comment on the recommended map online through the Maryland Department of Planning. They can also send their comments in writing to the department.

Howard Gorrell, a resident of Smithsburg in the 6th congressional district, said he plans to file a lawsuit against the draft plan, if it is not substantially changed.

“I expected that there could be a few small additions from Montgomery County, but I never thought of how much the proposal would carve up much of Frederick County and removing Carroll County from the 6th (congressional district),” he wrote in an email.

Democrats on the governor’s advisory panel defended the redrawn district. They say it reflects the population trends in those areas in the last decade.

After the governor’s proposal is submitted to the General Assembly, the legislature will hold a public hearing on the plan, which will be contained in legislation. Any changes in the legislature will be taken up in amendments to the bill.

“I’m sure there’s individuals that might have specific recommendations, not just wholesale changes, but you’ll work off what the governor has,” House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel said.

Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, the Republican minority leader in the House of Delegates, said he hoped the redistricting plan wasn’t already set in stone, and that the process would be open to changes. However, he questioned whether there would be much opportunity for Republicans to change the redistricting plan in a Legislature that is heavily Democratic.

“If it’s a fair process and the books aren’t already cooked then, yeah, there’s an opportunity for that,” O’Donnell said Tuesday. “We’ll see.”

The special session is not expected to last more than several days. Busch told reporters Monday night that he did not believe the General Assembly would take up any other issues other than redistricting in the session.

“I don’t see anything aside from redistricting issues on the agenda,” Busch said. “I don’t plan for that to change.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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