Gov. Larry Hogan, who has been demanding an up-or-down floor vote on his proposed congressional redistricting plan, got one in the Maryland Senate Wednesday. It went down.
The 30-16 vote came on an amendment to a Democratic redistricting bill. The amendment would have erased the legislation advanced by Democrats and substituted language from the governor's rejected bill. Hogan proposed creating an independent redistricting commission to draw lines for the state's eight congressional districts.
Senate Minority Leader J. B. Jennings' amendment did not include the governor's proposal to change the way Maryland draws its state legislative district lines. Jennings said he did not include that provision because it would have required a constitutional amendment.
Republicans heaped scorn on the bill that emerged from a Democratic-dominated committee, which would have Maryland adopt a nonpartisan redistricting commission if other mid-Atlantic states agreed to act in concert to do the same. The same committee voted down Hogan's bill.
Democrats argued that the measure would begin to address a national problem by taking a regional approach involving both Republican- and Democratic-led states, giving neither party a clear advantage in picking up seats.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller acknowledged in an interview he has not reached out to any public officials in the other states to gauge interest in such a plan. Miller, a Democrat, said the effort was not an empty gesture because "it's saying that we care" about the issue of gerrymandering.
Republicans called the legislation a "joke" and predicted it would never lead to reform. They called on Maryland to take action on its own to change its heavily gerrymandered lines, which have given Democrats a 7-1 advantage in the House of Representatives.
A spokeswoman for Hogan called the Democratic bill "a political ploy designed to give the appearance of supporting redistricting reform while ensuring it never actually happens."
"If these senators truly support free and fair elections and ending the unconstitutional practice of gerrymandering, they would support it in their own backyard regardless of what happens in other states," said spokeswoman Hannah Marr.
After Jennings' amendment was rejected, the Senate gave the bill preliminary approval. It is expected to receive a final vote later this week.