Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is hoping to enlist the support of two high-profile Democrats — including former President Barack Obama — in his push to bring nonpartisan redistricting to Maryland.
With the “emergency commission” that he created last year poised to release a proposed congressional map that the state could use in 2020, Hogan is asking Obama and former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., to throw their weight behind his efforts.
The two men are co-founders of the Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
The NDRC’s website claims that “Republicans have rigged our elections by gerrymandering districts all across the country. This unfair advantage is making it harder for Democrats to fight climate change, pass gun control, and ensure access to health care for everyone.”
The organization bills itself as “the centralized hub for executing a comprehensive redistricting strategy that shifts the redistricting power, creating fair districts where Democrats can compete.”
In his letters to the two men, Hogan writes, “I am in complete agreement with your goal of building a democracy where voters pick their elected representatives, not the other way around.”
After praising the two men for efforts to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions in several others states, Hogan urges them to get involved in Maryland, where the General Assembly is considering a host of reform measures.
“With your support, I believe we can set things right in Maryland,” Hogan writes.
Last fall a three-judge federal appeals panel ordered the state to redraw its maps for just one election cycle, after Republicans from Western Maryland’s 6th District filed suit, claiming their First Amendment rights of association were violated by the contorted, self-serving map the Democrats drew after the 2010 Census.
Maryland’s bipartisan Redistricting Reform Commission has held hearings around the state and is set to meet again Friday. On Monday, the panel will release a draft map that is expected to alter the 6th District, which Democrats altered a decade ago as part of an effort to unseat long-serving Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R).
Changes may also come to the 1st District, represented by Rep. Andrew Harris (R), and the 8th District, represented by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D), as the result of efforts to comply with the court order, and the requirement that districts be roughly equal in size.
The public will have four weeks to comment on commission’s proposal.
With the state under court order to redraw the lines for 2020, the governor hopes that the commission’s map can be rushed through the General Assembly during the hectic final week of this year’s legislative session, a seemingly ambitious timetable.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in a legal challenge to Maryland’s 2011-era congressional map March 26.
There are a number of redistricting reform measures working their way through the legislature.
One would create a constitutional amendment requiring districting “to conform to certain standards” and that “due regard be given to natural boundaries and boundaries of political subdivisions.”
Another would prohibit the use of voting history and party affiliation in the creation of future congressional maps.
The state will redraw its maps yet again in 2021, after the decennial Census next year.
Lawmakers also will consider the governor’s proposed Legislative and Congressional Redistricting and Apportionment Commission, an independent panel that would take the power of drawing political boundaries from the General Assembly, where it resides now.
Similar measures routinely died without a vote during the governor’s first term.