As the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on who should control the districting process, it should consider the mess that has been made by political parties determined to maintain their advantage at any cost and weigh that against the rights of voters who are being ignored.
The Supreme Court will consider an Arizona case in which lawmakers are arguing that they have the sole responsibility of determining congressional districts and they say the constitution backs them up on that contention.
Opponents argue that, in the phrase in question which says the legislature has the responsibility of drawing districts, the term legislature should be more broadly interpreted as the lawmaking process in the state.
Across the county legislatures controlled by Republicans have gerrymandered districts to give themselves an advantage and hold power. In legislatures controlled by Democrats, they draw the districts to favor their party. Maryland underwent redistricting after the last census which resulted in Republicans losing a House of Representatives seat to a Democrat. And state and federal boundaries have been so badly drawn that there are competing bills in this session to change the process. Gov. Larry Hogan, however, wants to create a commission to examine the problem and look at alternatives.
States such as Arizona and California have taken the redistricting process out of the hands of partisan elected officials and have given the task to independent commissions. This eliminates the possibility of a party in power drawing lines that favor their party's candidates or altering the lines in ways that diminish the opportunity of the minority party from gaining representation.
In looking at the arguments in this case, the Supreme Court should use the interpretation that provides for more public participation in the process, not less. Our country was founded on the principle of government for, by and of the people, and as such it makes no sense to take power away from the people and concentrate it in the hands of a few partisan officials.
As state leaders look to revamp Maryland's districting process, they will have to keep a close watch on the Arizona case and how the court rules. Ultimately, though, the court should rule that the power belongs with the people.