ANNAPOLIS — Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Friday called for national reform of how the nation's congressional districts are drawn, a day after Gov. Larry Hogan formed a state commission to study reforms in Maryland and submit a state constitutional amendment.
Van Hollen, who represents District 8, which incudes parts of Carroll County, expressed his support for reforms in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Hogan. Van Hollen, a Democrat, wrote that he is open to reviewing the Republican governor's proposal for changes in Maryland. He also said he hopes Hogan will urge Boehner to allow a vote on federal legislation for national redistricting reform to end partisan drawing of congressional districts.
"I trust you will agree that it makes more sense to have one set of nonpartisan rules for the entire country rather than a state-by-state approach that can be used to disadvantage one party over the other at the national level," wrote Van Hollen, who is running for retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski's seat.
Critics of Maryland's redistricting process contend the state has some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation. Gerrymandering is the process in which state officials draw congressional districts to benefit their party.
Rep. Andy Harris, the state's lone Republican in the House, said he supports Hogan's approach. He said Maryland frequently prides itself on being a progressive state, and this is an area where the state could be progressive.
"We're infamous for having one of the most ridiculous-looking districts in the country," said Harris, who represents District 1, which includes parts of Carroll.
Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat, said she has been a long supporter of redistricting reforms nationally. Edwards said she wants to see what the commission formed by Hogan recommends, though she said she could support a state approach to reforms.
"We already have some examples of that, which is what precipitated the federal legislation that's kind of in the hopper, and I think the more we learn from what we do here in Maryland and California and Florida and other places that it will serve us well nationally," said Edwards, who is running against Van Hollen for Mikulski's seat.
While Democrats have a 2-1 advantage in voter registration in Maryland, the state's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are now filled by seven Democrats and one Republican. Hogan said at a news conference Thursday that the strong tilt to Democrats is a result of congressional maps that have been drawn by Democrats to strengthen their numbers.
Maryland Democrats point out that Republican-controlled legislatures in other states also draw congressional maps with a partisan eye, a point Hogan acknowledged on Thursday.
"Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of the same kinds of offenses," Hogan said. "I can't fix every other state, but I would encourage them all to do what we're trying to do here in Maryland."
A constitutional amendment in Maryland would require a three-fifths vote by the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, and Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Thursday they believe the issue should be addressed nationally.