ANNAPOLIS - A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers announced a petition challenging the state’s redrawn congressional districts one 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,

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 next 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.

Residents need to consider the petition an opportunity to challenge the maps signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in favor of districts that better consolidate groups of residents, according to Campbell.

“Last time I checked, Maryland isn’t a dictatorship,” he said.

The drive drew support from Montgomery County Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez and Prince George’s County Del. Tiffany Alston and Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who represent areas where congressional district lines were redrawn to purposely split minority and rural communities, Parrott said.

If the redistricting map were successfully challenged on the ballot, state officials would be forced to redraw the map – or more likely, the map would be redrawn in court, Parrot said.

A new map could then be available in 2014, in time for the next congressional election in Maryland, he added. Congressmen elected this fall could simply serve out their terms until then.

All new laws in Maryland are subject to referendum if enough residents challenge the legislation. However, 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. is also behind a petition drive to halt the implementation of same-sex marriage, which passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by O’Malley earlier in March. Gay nuptials would become legal in Maryland on Jan. 1, 2013.

Parrott led a successful petition in 2011 to stop a law granting illegal immigrants in-state college tuition rates.