Photo courtesy http://governor.maryland.gov/governor-larry-hogan/
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan this week introduced a bill prohibiting the drawing of legislative districts for political advantage and establishing an independent citizen commission to draw district lines.
Hogan’s bill would end a redistricting process in Maryland that resulted in some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. The proposal turns into legislation solutions the bipartisan Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission recommended in a report they released last year.
“Allowing elected officials to manipulate General Assembly and congressional districts to rig elections is a clear conflict of interest that keeps Maryland voters from holding politicians accountable,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “We urge the General Assembly to pass this fair and transparent approach to redistricting to give the people a true voice in who represents them.”
Redistricting is required following each decennial census to update district boundaries so they have equal numbers of people. Current Maryland law gives the governor significant power to propose maps, which are too often drawn behind closed doors without meaningful public involvement.
Following the 2010 census, former Gov. Martin O’Malley and General Assembly leadership used this power draw maps that have been criticized as the most contorted and gerrymandered in the nation. Following an extensive public education campaign by the Tame the Gerrymander coalition, Gov. Hogan created the Redistricting Reform Commission last year to make a detailed set of policy recommendations to end political gerrymandering.
The legislation includes the following proposals:
- District lines should be compact, contiguous and respect county and municipal lines.
- Both congressional and state legislative districts should be drawn by an independent commission.
- The independent commission should be politically diverse, including three from the majority party, three from the minority party and three members from neither political party. The applicants will go through a screening process and final members will be drawn through a lottery. Elected officials, candidates, lobbyists and political staff are prohibited from serving.
- The commission will draw lines without regard to party affiliation or incumbent residency. The commission will hold “ample” public hearings on the proposed plan.
- The legislature may reject the map through a super majority vote.
- State legislative districts shall be far more consistent in size. Districts must be within 1 percent variance in population (as opposed to the current 5 percent) and there should be consistency between single-member or three-member delegate districts.
The bill will be available on the General Assembly’s website.