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Brochin proposals would alter future redistricting process in Maryland

State Sen. Jim Brochin introduced legislation in Annapolis on Thursday that he says would reform Maryland's legislative and Congressional redistricting processes by making them less partisan and more objective.

"Politicians shouldn't be making legislative redistricting maps," said Brochin, a Democrat from Towson who represents the 42nd District. "They just shouldn't."

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Brochin said the state's redistricting process, conducted every 10 years to reflect changes in the U.S. Census, has, "become such a grotesquely partisan exercise that it just would make more sense if people who make maps for a living, and people who are a little more apolitical, did this."

Senate Bill 160, one of three bills in the package introduced Jan. 19, calls for creation of a new eight-member redistricting commission, which would be directed by the executive director of the non-partisan Department of Legislative Services.

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Four of the appointees would come from the governor, while the Senate president and speaker of the House of Delegates would each appoint two. Brochin said he's planning an amendment that would provide for minority party representation.

"It has different appointees from each branch of government, ideally," Brochin said. "Maybe you get a little more diversity."

The committee under Brochin's proposal would vary from the current redistricting process, for which a five-member commission was appointed by the governor to make recommendations for his redistricting plan.

Brochin's second bill — Senate Bill 161 — deals with the criteria that can be used for drawing new district lines.

It would prohibit districts being "drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress … or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group," according to the bill's text.

Brochin said the bill stipulates that an elected official's address, party demographic data, and previous election results cannot be used to draw district lines.

In the current redistricting process, the map proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malleywould change the 42nd District — where Brochin currently serves — from one that consists mainly of Towson to one that stretches up to the Pennsylvania border and includes northern Baltimore County, which is heavily Republican.

Additionally, the new map also puts four sitting Republican delegates — Susan Aumann and Bill Frank of District 42, Wade Kach of District 5B and Joe Boteler of District 8 — into a northern sub-district, District 42B, where they will have to run against one another for two seats if they chose to run in 2014.

Brochin said that part of his goal in the legislation would be to curb some of the types of moves seen in this year's process.

"There are things in place in this law that make the process much different," he said.

Among other provisions are stipulations that a person may not be appointed to the commission if they hold an elected or appointed office in the executive or legislative branch, or if they hold a political party office; and a provision that public meetings on the maps would have to be publicized seven to 10 days before the hearing date.

In December 2011, the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee submitted its recommended legislative redistricting map on Dec. 16, and the public hearing was held Dec. 22 in Annapolis.

A third bill — Senate Bill 162 — would provide similar provisions for Congressional redistricting, which Brochin described as being "worse than the legislative one."

"Tell me what western Maryland has in common with Montgomery County?" Brochin said, specifically in reference to the proposal for the 6th Congressional District, which would stretch from Montgomery County to Garrett County. "It takes away from the representation of western Maryland."

All three of Brochin's bills are being co-sponsored by 37th District Republican Richard Colburn, who represents Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties, and Allan Kittleman, a Republican from the 9th District in Howard and Carroll counties. Democrat Jamie Raskin of the 20th District, Montgomery County, is co-sponsoring SB 160, which deals primarily with the commission.

Brochin introduced the same package in 2006, but said he couldn't even get it to a vote. This time around, he's hopeful that it will gain more support.

"If you want to put this in a nutshell, we have a system right now where politicians are choosing their voters," Brochin said. "We need a system where voters are choosing their politicians."

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