As the Democratic and Republican parties battle over how to draw congressional districts, one Maryland delegate thinks he has a simple solution to the problem.
Del. Michael Malone is sponsoring a bill that would require congressional districts to be compact and respect geographic boundaries and local city and county boundaries. It’s the same legal standard required for the state’s districts for delegates and state senators.
“It’s easily understood. It provides clear guidelines,” said Malone, an Anne Arundel County Republican who has long held an interest in redistricting.
Maryland’s congressional districts are considered among the most gerrymandered in the nation, with one federal judge once infamously describing one of the districts as “reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, with oral arguments set for next month.
As the court case plays out, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed a commission to suggest new boundaries for the district. He also is pushing legislation that would require congressional districts to be drawn in the future by a bipartisan commission.
Malone said he supports the governor’s bill, but is putting forth his idea as a simpler alternative with bipartisan support.
Malone counts 22 Democrats among his cosponsors and has cosponsors from Baltimore City and every county in the state. But he hasn’t been able to gain traction with legislative leaders, and the same bill failed last year.
Malone said that gerrymandering is bad for democracy because those who are elected don’t end up reflecting the politics of the people they represent.
He believes that requiring congressional districts to be compact and taking into account geographic and county boundaries will go a long way to creating districts that make more sense, and are less likely to be drawn to favor one political party over another.
Maryland’s members of the House of Representatives include just one Republican — Rep. Andy Harris — and seven Democrats.
“It’s causing hyper-partisan politics,” he said. “It’s wrong for Democrats to do it in Maryland and it’s wrong for Republicans to do it elsewhere.”
Malone’s bill isn’t scheduled yet for a hearing in the House of Delegates, but a companion bill from Sen. Ed Reilly, also an Anne Arundel Republican, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee on Feb. 28.