Hogan asks Obama to advocate for redistricting reform in Maryland

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
"I believe we could set things right in Maryland," Hogan tells Obama in letter on redistricting reform.

Gov. Larry Hogan wants redistricting reform so much that he asked President Barack Obama to intervene in the General Assembly's debate.

Hogan, a Republican, wrote Obama a letter last week asking him to persuade fellow Democrats to allow a floor vote on Hogan's proposal to let an independent commission draw congressional and state legislative districts.

"On this issue, we are in complete agreement," Hogan wrote in the letter, which was first reported by The Washington Post. "There are only days left in the legislative session, and next year, we may not have as strong an advocate in White House as you have been on this issue. With your intervention, I believe we could set things right in Maryland."

As of Wednesday, Obama had not responded to Hogan's Mar. 31 letter, Hogan's aides said.

In his January State of the Union speech, Obama called for an end to gerrymandering, saying that it wasn't enough to elect new public officials, the country needed to change the way it selected its leaders.

"We've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around," Obama said. "Let a bipartisan group do it."

Hogan last year convened a commission to study a better way to draw Maryland's political districts, which are widely considered among the most gerrymandered in the country. While federal judges have three times upheld the districts constitutionality, they have criticized them as contorted. A judge described Maryland's 3rd Congressional District as "reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state." 

Hogan's plan has languished in committees without a vote. An assistant attorney general has raised questions about its constitutionality.

On Tuesday, Hogan called on legislators to give his proposal an "up or down" vote. "There can be no possible excuse for keeping this bill hidden in a drawer," Hogan said.

Leading Democrats have said they're disinclined to approve a plan that changes Maryland's congressional districts absent a national plan for all states to draw them differently.

The nonpartisan, voter-advocacy group Common Cause supports Hogan's proposal, and executive director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel said Wednesday she was pleased the governor asked Obama to help. 

"Certainly, we think Maryland should lead," she said. 

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