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Maryland voters approve congressional redistricting plan

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Voters approved Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan Tuesday, despite widespread criticism that the new map was a brazen power play by the state’s Democratic leadership to squeeze out one of the state’s two Republicans in Washington.

Similar measures were on the ballot in Ohio, which proposed establishing a citizens’ committee to redraw state and federal lines by 2014, and in California, where state Senate boundaries were challenged.

In Maryland, critics said the plan, devised last year by state Democratic leaders to create a seventh Democratic seat and defeat U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), would divide communities and dilute the influence of minorities.

The plan gives at least 1.6 million people — nearly half the state’s registered voters — a different representative in Congress.

“It made Maryland a laughingstock,” said Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg), an early opponent.

But voters appeared unmoved by complaints from a broad coalition that included Republicans, Common Cause, nearly all of Montgomery County’s Council and some minority groups.

Those groups collected more than 59,000 signatures to put the plan on the ballot as Question 5.

The redistricting map was the handiwork of Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and won the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and several key state Democratic leaders.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) opposed the plan. Tony Campbell, a Towson Republican, spearheaded the effort to get the plan on the ballot after a federal court upheld it and the U.S. Supreme Court let it stand.

Late Tuesday, Campbell said the question’s wording may have confused voters because it merely said the plan “establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.”

“They accomplished their goal, but our focus is still on change,” he said. “We are going to work to present a bill next year to ask for an independent redistricting commission.”

In 2000, the state’s plan for congressional districts was challenged in federal court but upheld. The state legislative plan was challenged in state court and struck down after judges said it did not give “due regard” to political boundaries. The court adopted its own plan in 2002.

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