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Justin Ready: Fundamental redistricting reform needed

More and more we are seeing Marylanders from both parties agreeing that fundamental redistricting reform is needed.

The subject of redistricting reform has been receiving a lot of attention lately, thanks to efforts of a bi-partisan collection of citizen groups and elected officials. Since 2011, when the new congressional map were submitted and then approved, over mine and the Carroll County Delegation's vigorous objection, this has been quietly percolating as a controversial issue in Maryland. The congressional map was even put to a statewide vote in the 2012 presidential election after a massive citizen referendum effort but the map was approved by voters. A number of other high-profile ballot initiatives drowned out grassroots efforts to inform voters of just how awful the map was. However, the issue has not gone away. More and more we are seeing Marylanders from both parties agreeing that fundamental redistricting reform is needed.

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Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford campaigned on the importance of fair redistricting and have endorsed a non-partisan commission approach to address re-districting in the future. Groups as diverse as Common Cause, League of Women Voters, Change Maryland, the Maryland Republican Party and the Annapolis Chapter of National Jewish Women all have endorsed taking a non-partisan approach to end what's infamously known as congressional "Gerrymandering".

In Carroll, the 2011 congressional redistricting hit us hard, splitting our county in two. We now are 8% of Congressional District 1 which included the entire Eastern Shore and about 20% of District 8, which is dominated by Montgomery County. Does it make sense that Taneytown and Ocean City are in the same congressional district? How about Thurmont (in North Frederick County) in the same district as Silver Spring?

Maryland has two of the ten most gerrymandered districts in the county rated by Roll Call magazine – and Districts 1 and 8 are not even on that list!

Why does this matter? Is this just a non-problem that political junkies make a big deal about? When districts are allowed to be so manipulated and bizarrely shaped, voters have little to no idea who is representing them in Washington. They have a hard time holding that person accountable or even knowing who the alternative candidates are at election time. When districts are so lopsided such that only one party has a chance to win, it further reduces accountability and gives no incentive for our congressional representatives to be solution-oriented.

I commend Gov. Hogan and Lt. Gov. Rutherford for the steps they are taking to ensure fair election districts for Marylanders. We will need the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly to cooperate and support common-sense redistricting reform. As this effort continues, I will continue working to make sure that Carroll County and our state are represented fairly and that we get excessive political pressure out of the redistricting process.

The writer is a Republican state Senator representing District 5

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