Democrats denounce GOP petition drive

After Maryland Republicans appeared to have cleared the first hurdle in their challenge to Maryland's new congressional district map, the state Democratic chairwoman said the party will "consider all options" to fight the GOP effort to challenge the redistricting plan in a referendum.

“In the face of dwindling electoral success and political irrelevancy, Maryland Republicans have turned to the petition as a means to circumvent legislative procedure and impose their partisan agenda," said a statement released by state party chief Yvette Lewis. "The GOP attempt to overturn a fair, transparent and legal process, which was supported by the Governor and an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, is nothing but a brazen attempt to hold onto political power despite being out of step with the values of most Marylanders."

The statement came after a campaign led by Republican Del. Neil Parrott of Washington County filed what it estimated Thursday night as 25,000 signatures of Maryland voters who want the redistricting map put to a vote in November. On Friday, Parrott released updated figure showing that he and his allies gathered 28,477 signatures -- almost 10,000 more than the 18,579 that the challengers needed to file by June 1 to keep the drive alive.

Opponents of the redistricting map, which gives the Democrats a good chance of taking away one of the two U.S. House seats held by Republicans, still must file 55,736 valid signatures by July 1 to get the measure put on the ballot. Parrott predicted his organization,, and its allies would reach that target -- with a buffer about 20,000 to protect against signature challenges.

If voters overturn the map, which must be redrawn every decade to reflect census numbers, the measure would be sent back to the General Assembly.

Parrott said he and his allies had no trouble persuading voters, including many Democrats, to sign once they saw the map's convoluted lines -- which in some cases weave from county to county to suit the specific preferences of incumbents. The lawmaker said signature-gathering was especially strong in Anne Arundel County, which is split among four congressional districts. The 7,176 signatures listed as having been gathered in Arundel were the most in the state.

 Lewis vowed to put up a fight to preserve the map devised by Gov.Martin O'Malleyand Democratic legislative leaders.

"As the required petition signatures are filed and reviewed, the Maryland Democratic Party will consider all options to verify the integrity and transparency of the petition effort, and engage and mobilize voters in the fall," her statement said.



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