One consequence of Maryland now having a Republican governor, Larry Hogan, is that a topic once confined to the political closet is now out in the open and subject to discussion — gerrymandering. This is a healthy development in the state's politics.

The practice of drawing convoluted election district boundaries to lend political advantage to one candidate or party has long favored the Democrats in this state. With Hogan in the governor's mansion for at least the next four years, and perhaps eight, it is not surprising that Democrats — who may now see the momentum shifting toward a more fair redistricting — are willing to join the discussion.


How bad is gerrymandering in Maryland? Google "Maryland's 3rd congressional district," currently represented by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, and check out the map of this political construct, which meanders among four counties between Annapolis and Pikesville. Any claim that this splatter-shaped district is in any way compact or representative of a contiguous community is preposterous.

Much the same is true of the legislative districts that send lawmakers to Annapolis. Here, the tug-of-war is not only between Democrats and Republicans, but between legislators from Baltimore City and its suburbs who seek to safeguard their leverage in the General Assembly.

Districts are redrawn every 10 years, coinciding with the national census, to reflect population changes. Redrawing legislative districts is a process involving both the governor and the General Assembly and it would be naive to expect to keep politics out of the process.

Nevertheless, at least six proposals have emerged to make substantive changes in the system. All of them involve introducing an independent bi-partisan or non-partisan panel or oversight agency to ensure geographical compactness. The proposals come from Republicans and at least one Democrat. Meanwhile, Hogan said he will appoint a commission to study the way the state conducts redistricting. All of this is encouraging.

"To the victor go the spoils" and "our opponents do it to us" are the usual arguments behind penciling the boundaries of election districts to engineer a political advantage — scooping up supporters here or corraling non-supporters over there. The beneficiaries of these arguments are, of course, those who hold the political power, not those who vote them into office. Voters here deserve better.

"We have some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. This is not a distinction we should be proud of," Hogan said in his State of the State address.

He's right. Marylanders, both Democratic and Republican, have every right to be indignant over the blatant political self-interest on display in the boundaries of our election districts. Any effort at reforming this is welcome.