Editorial: Latest push for redistricting reform likely to fall flat

With the 2018 legislative session roughly a month away, Gov. Larry Hogan has once again pledged to try to improve the state’s redistricting process to make it a nonpartisan affair and eliminate gerrymandering in Maryland.

Partisan drawing of election districts not only contributes to the hyper-partisanship seen in today’s politics, but also disenfranchises voters who feel their voice doesn’t matter when politicians are able to essentially pick their constituents, rather than the other way around.


Hogan, a Republican, has submitted legislation to create an independent commission to draw Maryland’s congressional and state legislative districts in each of his first three years in office. Not once has his proposal advanced despite lip service on both sides of the aisle.

We would hope that the fourth time would be a charm, alas, with 2018 being an election year, we aren’t going to hold our breath.

Last year, Democrats in Annapolis instead passed their own redistricting bill that would’ve established an independent board, but only if five other states in the region agreed to do the same. Hogan vetoed it, calling it a “political ploy” to block real reform in the state. We agree.

Don’t get us wrong, we’d love to see more states take up the issue and do away with partisan gerrymandering altogether. Seven states already have nonpartisan or bi-partisan committees to handle congressional and legislative redistricting; another six have commissions that deal only with legislative maps.

But the plan the Maryland Democrats passed just absolves them from having to seriously address the issue — because nonpartisan redistricting would likely weaken Democrats’ dominance in Maryland — and instead allows them to put blame on neighboring states.

Still, as we’ve argued before, Democrats can draw that line in the sand and say Congressional redistricting needs to be a more regional or national effort, but they are the only ones standing in the way of nonpartisan redistricting of the state’s legislative districts. Again, six other states have already done so.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise in Maryland that Republicans are fighting harder for redistricting reform. They stand the most to gain from reform, even if that realistically is just one seat in Congress. However, we’ve seen recently at the national level, where gerrymandering has largely favored Republicans, prominent members of the GOP taking a stand against partisan redistricting

A brief calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to end gerrymandering in Gill v. Whitford, a challenge of the Wisconsin state legislative map that favors Republicans, has been signed by former and current members of Congress in both parties, including a number of Republicans from North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where maps favor the GOP, as well as both of Carroll County’s Congressmen, Republican Andy Harris and Democrat Jamie Raskin.

In an election year, Maryland Democrats could make a strong stand against partisan gerrymandering by working with Hogan this year to pass bipartisan redistricting reform. But with the party actively working to win back the Governor’s House next November, that seems unlikely.

Instead, voters across the state should make reform a priority issue in the coming election. After all, the winners in 2018 will be the ones responsible for developing the next congressional and legislative maps after the 2020 census. Demanding to know where candidates stand on redistricting reform and whether they will take up the issue if sent to represent us in Annapolis should be on every Maryland voter’s mind.