Marylanders unhappy with their representation in Congress should be paying close attention to what happens next with Gov.
Currently, Maryland's governor has the ability to draw the congressional and legislative district maps every decade, following the latest U.S. Census. Hogan has been pushing for a bipartisan independent committee to draw the lines, an approach that we believe is the best and most fair way to create the maps. MarylandReporter.com reported that the reform commission was set to expire Tuesday but asked Hogan to extend its charge through the 2017 legislative session that ends in April.
That round of gerrymandering also gave us districts where the person representing places like Taneytown, Hampstead, Manchester and Finksburg is also representing Eastern Shore towns like Cambridge, Crisfield and Ocean City. While the ideological views might match up a bit better than in District 8, there's no question the geography of District 1 makes little sense.
Gerrymandering also gave Maryland one of the most ridiculously shaped congressional districts in the nation, one famously described by a federal judge as a "broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state."
Finally, it has given us legislative districts where Carroll has 11 members making up its delegation to Annapolis, though only four of them actually call the county home.
Partisan gerrymandering is something every voter should care about. It doesn't have the primacy of taxes, schools, jobs or health care, though it may ultimately affect your ability to vote in or out officials who will make decisions about those key issues.
Whichever party is in the governor's mansion in 2020 — which could very well be Republican Hogan in a second term, given his current popularity — will have the ability to draw the maps however he or she pleases unless some reform is agreed upon.
Realistically, given Maryland's 2-1 Democratic advantage, at best (worst?) a Republican governor could probably draw their own manipulated congressional districts that give the GOP a clear advantage in two places and perhaps a third swing district. Legislative districts could be a different story.
Thus far, the Democratic leadership in Annapolis has been unwilling to even take committee votes on proposed legislation for an independent commission. Members of Hogan's reform commission believe the legislature would be more open to the change if Hogan wins re-election, according to a MarylandReporter.com article, rather than leaving it in the Republican governor's hands. Waiting until then is just playing political games. It's a decision they should reconsider in the upcoming session. If Tuesday's presidential election taught us anything, it's that the people are fed up with politics as usual.
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As legislators begin to gear up for the upcoming session in January, now is the time for residents disenfranchised by gerrymandering to push the issue of redistricting reform and get it in the forefront of the minds of elected officials and the public.