ANNAPOLIS - A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers announced a petition challenging the state'sredrawn congressional districtsone week before residents head to the polls for the primary election.
Officials were authorized to start collecting signatures in the last few days, according to Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, who heads the website behind the redistricting map challenge, MDPetitions.com.
Nearly 56,000 signatures are needed to bring the issue to referendum. If it is successful, Maryland residents would spend Nov. 6 voting to elect members of Congress to various districts while also voting on whether to challenge the merits of those eight district lines.
Many voters on Tuesday might be surprised to learn that the U.S. representative who has served them for the last decade is no longer on the ballot, said Tony Campbell, president of Marylanders for Coherent and Fair Representation.
The 4th Congressional District, which now stretches from Prince George's County to Anne Arundel County, is mostly split in two by another district. And the Sixth District links parts of liberal Montgomery County to conservative Western Maryland.
The petition drive drew support from Montgomery County Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez and Prince George's County Del. Tiffany Alston and Sen. C. Anthony Muse, all Democrats who represent areas where congressional district lines were redrawn tosplit minority and rural communities, Parrott said.
If the redistricting map were successfully challenged on the ballot, state officials would have to redraw the map -- or more likely, the map would be redrawn in court, Parrott said. A new map could be available in 2014, in time for the next congressional election.
All new laws in Maryland are subject to referendum if enough residents challenge the legislation.
It's been five decades since voters last successfully challenged congressional district maps, according to Alex Mooney, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.
"It's been 50 years, but it's about time the people of Maryland stood up and said, 'This is unfair,' " Mooney said.
MDPetitions.com is also behind a drive to halt the implementation of same-sex marriage. Gay nuptials would become legal in Maryland on Jan. 1.
Parrott led a successful petition in 2011 to stop a law granting illegal immigrants in-state college tuition rates, which will be on the November ballot.