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Ready: Time has come for action on redistricting reform legislation in Maryland

The recent ruling by the United State Supreme Court on a case involving congressional redistricting in Maryland and North Carolina has put the issue of gerrymandered districts front-and-center again.

While I would have loved for our state’s embarrassingly contorted and disfigured map to be forced to be redrawn, the court took a more conservative and Constitutional approach to whether the issue of redistricting is a state “political” issue versus a “legal” issue.

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Courts drawing legislative maps may seem like manna from heaven to those of us in Maryland feeling crushed under the weight of one-party dominance. However, it is the responsibility of a state’s elected representatives to be responsive to our concerns and take action.

I’ve been proud to co-sponsor redistricting reform legislation with Gov. Hogan four separate times — as have my District 5 colleagues in the House of Delegates. The time has come for action.

There is a wide consensus for a common-sense, non-partisan (as much as humanly possible) redistricting process that can embrace what some other states are doing and be the model for our neighbors to follow. To those who would argue that Republicans in other states are guilty of this, it’s true that neither party’s hands are clean when it comes to gerrymandering. I would urge people who say that, however, to look at Maryland’s congressional map and tell me it’s not the worst map in the country.

Most of the worst gerrymandered, “squiggly-lined” districts in other states are at least partially that way because of requirements to have majority-minority racial makeup. That’s not the case here. Our worst two districts (CD2 and CD3) are not majority-minority. In fact, it could be realistically argued that Maryland has one less majority African-American congressional district than it should based on their percentage of our state’s total population.

If there is hesitancy by the Democratic majority in Annapolis to act unilaterally on redistricting reform here in Maryland because of national politics (and oh how I wish that was the case when it comes to tax policy and job-killing regulations), then let’s sit down with our neighbors in Virginia who have, perhaps, more Republican congressional representatives than statewide election results indicate they should and hammer out a joint plan to convert to non-partisan redistricting. It could absolutely be done in a way that shows respect for the people that we serve. Politicians picking their voters is not working for Maryland.

Carroll County residents can count on me to continue keeping the issue of redistricting reform — both congressional and state legislative — front and center in Annapolis, especially when the next session gets underway in January.

As one of your representatives, I appreciate receiving everyone’s opinions, questions, and input. Please feel free to contact me anytime. I look forward to hearing from you.

Justin Ready is a state senator, representing District 5 – Carroll County.

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