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Editorial: Hogan's committee takes good steps on redistricting reform

We're continually frustrated by the partisan bickering that comes from both sides of the political aisle. Some disagreement among our elected officials is only natural — and, quite honestly, healthy. The concept of considering diverse opinions and options only makes government better. It's when politicians fail to even consider the position of another, based on political gamesmanship, that we get particularly aggravated.

So when a situation comes along that seems to go out of its way to be fair and bipartisan, something that doesn't happen very often, we sit up and take notice. That was the case Tuesday when the governor's Redistricting Reform Commission released its final report that called for a nine-member panel to draw congressional and legislative redistricting lines, taking the power away from elected officials and politicians. The commission — which issued its report a day before the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case on whether a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Maryland's congressional districts could proceed — is calling for, among other things, that the new panel include three Republicans, three Democrats and three voters not affiliated with a party; that boundaries take into account jurisdictional lines and natural boundaries; that legislative districts be single-member ones; and that where incumbents live is not taken into account when drawing them.

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Independent political groups, such as Common Cause and the Maryland League of Women Voters, have praised the commission's work. We agree, even if the idea seems so fair and even-handed that in today's political culture, it also seems naive. That says a lot about how far off the rails Maryland's political process has gone.

But leave it to state Democrats to try to bring us back to some form of unfortunate reality. Pat Murray, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement that the plan "was predetermined by a small group of Republican insiders, the process lacked transparency, and the recommendations are fundamentally flawed," according to The Baltimore Sun. Remember, it will be the Democrat-controlled state legislature that will have to approve legislation submitted by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to codify the commission's recommendation.

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Any fair-minded person can see that past boundary changes, made every 10 years after new data from the U.S. Census, have been gerrymandered to the give political advantages to Democrats. Democratic leaders have even been so emboldened to say that it's their right to make the districts so irregularly shaped with a "to-the-victor-goes-the-spoils" mentality. One only needs to look at congressional and legislative districts representing Carroll County to see how attempts have been made to marginalize Republicans.

Hogan, though, is betting that the Democrats might now have more reason to compromise. The governor in office during the redistricting has control over drawing the maps. Whereas that's typically a Democrat, Hogan's re-election would put him in charge and in a position to give Democrats payback. Instead, he's opting for a process that's more fair and isn't designed to keep one party in control. While we recognize that it's easier for the minority party to suggest this, we nonetheless think it is the fair thing to do.

We'll have to see how Democrats react come time for the legislature to convene in January. We're not sure what they'll do about redistricting, but we certainly know what they should do.

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