December Special Session May Loom to Tackle Congressional Re-Districting

Legislative leaders are considering a December special session to redraw Maryland’s eight congressional districts, based on new census data.

Maryland Matters has uncorked a story informally swirling about Annapolis in recent weeks – that the General Assembly is eyeing a late-2021 special session to pass a new congressional district map.

From their story:

By law, the Maryland General Assembly must redraw the state’s 47 legislative districts, to reflect population shifts, while meeting in regular session. But no such requirement exists for congressional redistricting, so Assembly leaders have chosen to take on mapmaking for U.S. House districts in special session, if possible.

“Both series of maps are going to be very time-intensive and a lot of emotions will likely run high,” said Del. Jazz M. Lewis (D-Prince George’s), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

“And to make sure that we do it justice for the public, we want to separate them, so that when we’re talking about the congressional map, we’re only focused on that.”

A presentation on the US Census from a recent MACo Conference – the decennial census drives redrawm districts nationwide to ensure balanced representation based on the latest population data.

A potentially compounding effect may be pending vetoes by Governor Hogan. Under Maryland law, veto overrides must be taken up by the General Assembly as an order of business upon their reconvening – typically early in the subsequent regular session, but in the event of a special session prior to January of 2022, that matter would become part of an obligatory special session agenda, should the legislature desire to carry on any debate and vote over those executive decisions. It is not clear whether procedural actions could, effectively, delay final consideration on those matters until January.

The timing of census data, itself somewhat delayed by the pandemic, will make the upcoming year’s district design an unusually compressed process. Final release of usable data for that formal process may not occur until September or later, according to the discussion on the Conduit Street Podcast earlier this year – leaving district-drawing commissions at every level in a short timetable to develop their final work.

Read more details on the possible process ahead in Maryland Matters.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties