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Preliminary results give initiative a wide lead

By HOLLY NUNN

Staff writer

Voters approved a congressional redistricting plan for Maryland that had been opposed by Republicans and some Democrats, according to preliminary results.

As of 11 p.m., 63 percent of voters had approved the map through ballot Question 5, with about 1.5 million votes counted statewide.

“I think it’s a strong plan,” Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery) said of the map, which will now remain in place for the next 10 years.

The map, drawn by a panel appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that included Democratic leaders, was designed to make Western Maryland’s 6th District, which had been represented by longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, more competitive. The new district lines swept down into more liberal Montgomery County, giving an advantage to Democrat John Delaney, who upset Bartlett Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

Although the map, which was approved by the General Assembly, was upheld as legal by the Supreme Court in June, opponents collected about 65,000 signatures in a petition drive to put it on the ballot.

“Of course there’s a political component, as there is everywhere,” Dumais said of the redistricting process. “I think it’s good that we have this plan for the next 10 years.”

In recent weeks, Democrats statewide began coming out against the map, saying that it did not protect the interests of minority communities, and would make it difficult for one person to represent the diverse interests of residents in far-flung neighborhoods.

Some have said the referendum was a chance to spur redistricting reform in Maryland, as has been done in a handful of other states. Some have called for a nonpartisan committee to draw the districts’ map.

“We're going to be making sure that we have a bill next year to look at redistricting,” said Tony Campbell, president of Marylanders for Coherent and Fair Representation, the group working against Question 5.

Because it was the only major statewide ballot question without polling to predict the outcome and with little campaigning or publicity, the outcome was unclear.

hnunn@gazette.net