Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has introduced legislation that would end the process of elected leaders drawing General Assembly districts and congressional districts for political and partisan advantage. The proposed reform mirrors the recommendations of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, a group of 11 Maryland residents from different political backgrounds who Hogan tasked with recommending policies to end gerrymandering in the state. The Washington Post has stated that Maryland’s congressional map is tied with North Carolina for the worst gerrymander in America.
- Creates a nine-person citizen commission made up of Maryland residents to draw congressional and General Assembly districts. The governor and General Assembly would maintain the ability to reject up to two maps but will no longer control the drafting process.
- Ensures partisan balance on the commission by including three Democrats, three Republicans, and three people who are not affiliated with either major party. Commissioners are selected randomly from pools of applicants that have been screened for political bias and skills.
- Requires members to name one of the three members who are not Democrats or Republicans to chair the commission and requires a supermajority of six commissioners to approve a plan.
- Forbids the following individuals from the commission:
o Members of Congress or the General Assembly, or those who recently ran for those offices
o Congressional or General Assembly staff
o Registered lobbyists
o Anyone who has changed party voter registration in the previous five years
o Immediate family of any excluded person
- Details objective criteria commission must use to that put fair representation above political gamesmanship.
o Equal population as required by U.S. Constitution and federal law
o Compliance with Voting Rights Act and other federal law
o Pay due regard to county and municipal boundaries
o Contiguity: adjoining territory conveniently connected for purposes of travel and communication
- Declares the intent of the General Assembly that district lines not be drawn for partisan advantage, or to favor or disfavor an incumbent.
- Requires public hearings and ensures robust citizen input.
- Forbids population variance of more than 2 percent.
This bill takes ideas from reforms found in several other states. It resembles California’s successful Citizens Redistricting Commission, which drew districts for the first time following the 2010 census. The California commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four people unaffiliated with either major party. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has drawn districts for two census cycles and consists of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one independent chair. Both states have strong screening processes to ensure that commissioners do not have a personal or partisan stake in the outcome.
Maryland’s proposal allows the legislature to veto maps without amendment but with suggested changes, which is similar to the Iowa model. However, the Iowa legislature maintains the power to draw districts if it vetoes three maps. Hogan’s proposal empowers Maryland state courts to draw districts if the legislature or governor reject two versions of maps, which discourages Maryland’s political establishment from intentionally derailing the process.
Read the bill here.