With the Maryland General Assembly’s session down to its final few days, the Hogan administration continues to urge legislative leaders to make the governor’s redistricting reform measures a priority.
“We are calling for an an up-or-down vote on the governor’s redistricting bills. Or at least a hearing,” Michael Ricci, the governor’s communications director, said in a statement on Tuesday. “If the professional politicians are so proud of [the state’s existing] maps, they ought to have no problem going on record about it. Call the vote.”
Another Hogan administration release, on Monday, also urged action: “Governor Hogan is asking for an up-or-down vote on his redistricting legislation. That vote comes down to a simple question: are you for partisan gerrymandering or are you for free and fair elections?”
Hogan’s measures — SB 90 and SB 91 — would create a “Legislative and Congressional Redistricting and Apportionment Commission” tasked with redrawing the state’s political boundaries following the 2020 Census.
The measures would require:
— that future districts “respect natural boundaries and the geographic integrity” of Maryland’s municipalities and counties;
— that future districts be “geographically compact;” and
— that the commission not account for past voting patterns, registration statistics or where incumbents or potential candidates reside.
Despite the administration’s gusto, Hogan’s bills are not expected to get any love from the Democrats who control the legislature (and therefore most of the redistricting process).
The issue of redistricting is before the Supreme Court, and as state Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick) acknowledged in a Maryland Matters interview last month, “It’ll be June or something” before the justices rule.
“No one is going to re-open and re-draw that map until the Supreme Court rules.”
Hogan is far from alone in advocating a less partisan approach to redistricting.
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) supports redistricting reform, provided it is national in scope.
He supports H.R. 1, a multi-pronged political reform measure that includes a requirement that all 50 states adopt a nonpartisan approach to redistricting.
The bill passed the U.S. House and now awaits action in the Senate, where it is likely to stall.
“There is a difference as to whether this ought to be done nationally, so that every state would have to play by the rules, as opposed to just one state or two states or five states playing by the rules,” Hoyer told the Prince George’s House delegation in Annapolis last week.
“Very frankly, I think that may cost Democrats a seat, maybe two” in Maryland, he added. “I think around the country, Democrats will pick up [seats]. However, what it would do is give the citizens confidence that they have a district that they can have confidence in, as being a district that shares their interests.”
In an interview after his briefing with legislators, Hoyer suggested that few Republican governors have joined Hogan’s push for redistricting reform because it could cost the GOP seats in Congress.
“There aren’t any Republican governors around the country — and they control a lot of the states — who are trying to do redistricting reform,” Hoyer said. “Why? Because they control it.”
For there to be a level playing field, Hoyer said, the country needs for Congress to adopt or the Supreme Court to order a new system — “to make sure that everybody, all 50 states, play by the rules.”