Maryland’s lone Republican congressman is likely to see his district get more competitive in the midterms under a redistricting proposal that state lawmakers on Tuesday voted to send to the General Assembly.

Out of four proposals, the Maryland Legislative Redistricting Commission selected a map that notably changes Rep. Andy Harris’s Eastern Shore-anchored district by crossing the Chesapeake Bay to include parts of Anne Arundel County. The proposal would surely make the district friendlier to Democrats but still gives Harris a viable shot at reelection, since the proposed district would just bypass blue Annapolis instead of taking in areas including Crofton, Maryland City and Severna Park. Annapolis would move from the 3rd District to the 4th.

The seven-member commission voted 4-to-2 along party lines to approve the map, with Chairman Karl Aro abstaining. The map will now go to the General Assembly ahead of its Dec. 6 special session to approve a map — accounting for population changes after the latest census — and lawmakers can continue to adjust the map as they see fit.

However the Maryland General Assembly ultimately redraws Harris’s district will prove pivotal for national Democrats, who, with only a slim majority in the House, are hoping to hang onto every advantage they can get in congressional redistricting. Republicans control far more state legislatures in charge of redistricting than Democrats, leaving Maryland as one of few where Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the State House. And some Maryland residents have advocated for giving Harris a run for his money in part over his objection to the election results on Jan. 6.

A decade ago, however, Maryland Democrats faced criticism and legal complaints over nakedly partisan gerrymandering to give them a 7-1 advantage over Republicans, resulting in the state’s eye-straining congressional map. And they are likely to face scrutiny from anti-gerrymandering groups again.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) launched an independent advisory commission that he tasked with redistricting and that completed its own proposal, but Tuesday’s vote again makes clear legislative Democrats are set on a different direction.

On Tuesday morning, Hogan told a Baltimore radio host that “we have the distinction of the worst gerrymandered districts in America.” He added that the legislature was “trying to cheat with the maps” in ways that benefit Democrats.

Hogan has said he would also submit the map drawn by his citizen advisory committee for legislators to accept.

“If they don’t do it, and they come up with something that’s egregious, I’m fairly certain that it will be taken to court,” Hogan told a Baltimore radio host on Tuesday. “And if it’s a gerrymandered map, I’ll veto it.”

The governor acknowledged that Democrats have supermajorities that could override him, but he thought it would be “politically painful” for them to do so.

The map that the commission advanced still strains the eye, but strains the eye a bit less than the current makeup, as two Republican lawmakers were quick to point out.

Chairman Karl Aro noted that one of commissioners’ main priorities “was to try to keep as many people as possible in their current districts for continuity reasons.” But Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) questioned if that starting point was part of the problem.

“If you’re starting from a baseline where it’s seriously gerrymandered and our goal is to keep them in the same district, the end result is going to be gerrymandered again,” Simonaire said.

He and House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) took particular issue with the proposed 3rd Congressional District, now represented by anti-gerrymandering Rep. John Sarbanes (D), who championed the For the People Act in Congress.

The 3rd District — once infamously described by a federal judge as resembling “a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state” — has taken on a different form in the proposal, less incomprehensible but still sprawling in numerous directions.

In this iteration, it has what resembles an Italy boot dipping down into Baltimore, then it spreads what still vaguely resemble a pair of wings going east into Harford County and west down into Montgomery County. In total it crosses six jurisdictions.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D) urged colleagues to compare the newly proposed District 3 to the current eyesore, which, he noted, “is certainly not ideal,” but ultimately legal. “If you compare District 3 in the current map to what we have here in map two, I’d say it’s significantly more contiguous and significantly more compact,” Ferguson said.

Buckel agreed that is true, if that’s the comparison — but questioned what people on the Susquehanna River in Harford County could have in common as a contiguous community with people in Montgomery County near D.C.

“I understand the national politics surrounding this map, but we were elected to represent the people of Maryland, not the interests of Washington, D.C.,” Simonaire said. “A simple glance at this carefully crafted map shows the partisan carving up of counties and communities for political gain.”

During the last round of redistricting, Maryland Democrats faced the longest legal battles over the 6th Congressional District, which they admitted drawing with the intent of ousting then-Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett by stretching the Western Maryland district down into Montgomery County. The case went to the Supreme Court, which decided federal courts were not the proper avenue for partisan gerrymandering complaints.

In this proposal, the district, now held by Rep. David Trone (D) is kept largely intact, though it takes on more of Frederick County.

With the 1st District stretching into Anne Arundel, Maryland’s 8th Congressional District — Democratic Rep. Jamie B. Raskin’s — would pick up more of Carroll County. And the 2nd Congressional District, held by Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, would become more compact in the coastal areas south of Baltimore, losing some of its eastern portion to the 7th District.

In all, lawmakers noted that six of the eight districts would become more competitive.

Erin Cox contributed to this report.


An earlier version of this story said the vote happened Thursday. It happened Tuesday. This version has been corrected.