ANNAPOLIS – Holding true to his promise, Governor Larry Hogan has executed an executive order authorizing the establishment of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission. The commission will have 11 representatives, with four selected by the House of Delegates, the State Senate and seven appointed by Hogan himself. The house and senate have yet to select their […]
ANNAPOLIS – Holding true to his promise, Governor Larry Hogan has executed an executive order authorizing the establishment of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission.
The commission will have 11 representatives, with four selected by the House of Delegates, the State Senate and seven appointed by Hogan himself. The house and senate have yet to select their members, but Hogan has already selected his.
“Maryland is home to some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country, a distinction that we should not be proud of,” Hogan said. “For far too long, this political gamesmanship has stifled real political debate and deprived citizens of meaningful choices.”
The committee will review the approaches of other nonpartisan redistricting committees across the country, according to Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Hogan, and determine what direction the state should undergo with their congressional districts.
Through the work of this commission, Hogan said, his administration’s goal is to reform the state’s congressional districting process and create more “transparency, fair representation and election integrity.” Throughout Hogan’s campaign for governor, he discussed taking a look at redistricting the state.
“Gerrymandering is a form of political gamesmanship that stifles real political debate and deprives citizens of meaningful choices,” Hogan said during the speech. “Fair and competitive elections and having checks and balances make for a more vibrant and responsive citizen republic.”
Based on the findings of the commission, a report will be submitted to the governor, Senate President Mike V. Miller (D-MD) and Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch (D-MD) no later than Nov. 3. Additionally, the commission will give a recommendation for a constitutional amendment on congressional and legislative redistricting that will be introduced as legislation during the 2016 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly. The commission will end onNov. 8, 2016.
The commission plans to file a report by the Nov. 3 deadline, Montgomery said. The report will address the current position of district lines and will give a recommendation for a constitutional amendment on congressional and legislative districting.
“The legislation will be introduced during the 2016 legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly,” Montgomery said.
Hogan’s seven selected members are Alexander Williams Jr., Walter Olson, Michael J. Goff, Christopher B. Summers, Ashley Oleson, Carol Ramirez and Tessa Hill-Aston. Williams and Olson will co-chair the committee, according to Hogan. Williams previously served as a state’s attorney in Prince George’s County.
Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Pat Murray said Hogan should be focused on issues impacting middle class families rather than “dabbling in national politics.”
“Marylanders are waiting for the governor to announce the release of the $68 million in school funding that he is holding hostage, or to reveal his plan to relieve traffic congestion in our metropolitan areas,” Murray said. “Instead of offering solutions to today’s challenges, he is talking about an issue the country won’t confront until the end of the decade.”
Legislative and congressional districts are reestablished every 10 years during the census count of the residents of the country. Once those counts are made, districts are formatted in each state. Currently, Maryland has eight congressional districts. Prince George’s County is included in the 4th and 5th district.
Legislative districting is a national issue and needs a national solution, Murray said. Republicans drew the lines in six of the nation’s 10 most gerrymandered states, he said, and eight of the nation’s 10 most gerrymandered districts in the country.
“If Governor Hogan is serious about redistricting reform, he should ask his allies at the (Republican National Convention), the (Republican Governors Assocaition), and on Capitol Hill to develop a national solution,” Murray said.”
Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-4) said she supports the redistricting efforts of the committee established by Hogan. Any process placing political interest over ensuring the American public is receiving fair representation should be denounced, Edwards said.
“I have long supported redistricting reforms to end the damage partisan gerrymandering does to our democracy,” Edwards said. “As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act this week, we should denounce a process that far too often places political interests over ensuring that all Americans have fair representation.”
Nancy Soreng, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland (LWVM), said redistricting reform has been a priority for the league for more than 30 years. They are hopeful the governor backing this reform will help move it forward.
“During the last legislative session there were numerous proposals for establishing a more transparent commission process,” Soreng said. “We thank those legislators for their leadership and hope those bills, along with reforms that have been adopted in other states, can provide guidance for the Commission to study.”
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, who is the executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the process for drawing district lines is broken and must be corrected. Districts “sprawl across the state,” she said, and slice into communities and neighborhoods causing civic disengagement for the democratic process.
“Marylanders deserve an open, transparent and accountable process and we hope that this commission will move us forward towards a stronger method,” Bevan-Dangel said.