Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said he plans to reintroduce redistricting reform legislation on the first day of the 2020 General Assembly session.
The announcement marks the continuation of an anti-gerrymandering crusade that has won Hogan praise but has yet to influence the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
Hogan unveiled his plans on Wednesday, the same day he signed Common Cause’s End Gerrymandering Pledge, an effort by the reform group to remove politics from the process of drawing political boundaries.
“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of our democracy, and it’s past time for leaders on both sides of the aisle to put an end to the disgraceful practice of partisan gerrymandering,” Hogan said in a statement.
“I am proud to sign on to Common Cause’s ‘End Gerrymandering Pledge’ to continue fighting for a fair, nonpartisan, open, and transparent redistricting process for all legislative and congressional districts.”
Maryland has some of the most wildly contorted congressional districts in the country. A legal challenge to the state’s current map, which was created after the 2010 Census, reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was filed by Republicans in Western Maryland, who were cheered when the court accepted their case. Although the justices reviewed Benisek v. Lamone in consecutive years, they ultimately failed to agree on a system that would remedy partisan line-drawing.
Next year the federal government will conduct a new Census, setting up a likely battle between Hogan and the legislature during the next round of map-making before the 2022 election.
Several states have created non-partisan commissions in a bid to take power away from elected officials, who routinely craft districts that benefit themselves.
Maryland Democrats have justified their aggressive use of computer-aided line-drawing by pointing to zig-zaggy maps that have been drawn in larger, Republican-leaning states such as North Carolina and Texas.
“We’re happy to hear that Governor Hogan has taken the pledge to end gerrymandering and support fair maps in Maryland,” said Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.
“Redistricting reform is more critical now than ever and we need to take action this upcoming legislative session to put reforms in place before the next round of map-drawing begins following the 2020 Census. We look forward to working with Governor Hogan and members of the General Assembly to advance non-partisan, non-discriminatory, and transparent redistricting throughout the state.”
Hogan’s measure is called the Redistricting Reform Act. Lawmakers have rejected his legislation in the past without a vote.