Voting-rights groups urge Marylanders to help with redistricting maps

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Census data from 2020 show Maryland’s population moving to the center of the state, and fair-map advocates say district lines need to shift to represent the change. (maryland.gov)

By Diane Bernard, Maryland News Connection

BALTIMORE, Md. — As two competing Maryland redistricting commissions offer multiple chances for public input, voter-advocacy groups say technology developed since the last political maps were drawn is making the process even more democratic.

Beth Hufnagel, redistricting committee chair for the League of Women Voters of Maryland, said interested Marylanders can use free software to draw their own congressional and legislative maps, which Gov. Larry Hogan’s Citizens Redistricting group will accept.

She noted there is a learning curve to using the software, and has tried it herself, and pointed out for the first time, residents have the power to redraw maps alongside legislators.

“Now they can take the draft maps the commissions are producing, put them into the free software, and make their own tweaks and then send it back,” Hufnagel outlined. “So, not only are there, ‘I don’t like the way you draw District Number 53,’ but, ‘Here’s how I think you should have drawn it.’ It’s a big difference.”

Maps need to be received by September 24th at noon. The General Assembly’s redistricting group has not stated if it will accept maps from residents.

The General Assembly’s Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission held its first public meeting last week, and Hufnagel believes they will be more transparent than in 2010. Back then, she pointed out, legislators met behind closed doors and residents had little say in the map-making process.

“Ten years ago, it was all very much like out of a magic hat,” Hufnagel recounted. “‘Here’s the map. Everybody likes it.’ Sure. Well, they didn’t. I am hopeful this year that what we’ll get is draft maps, and we’ll have them in plenty of time before they’re actually presented to the Legislature.”

The legislative commission announced it will hold regional and statewide public hearings this fall. The first is in Prince George’s County on Sep. 20 and will be livestreamed.

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