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Maryland State Senator Proposes Independent, Multi-Member Congressional Districts

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Maryland state Senator Jamie Raskin is at the forefront of the state’s efforts to end partisan gerrymandering and enact fundamental election reform. In a state that has been called one of the most gerrymandered in the nation, and during a time when partisan politics increasingly incentivize the manipulation of district lines, Raskin believes this type of legislative action is sorely needed.

Senator Raskin recently introduced the Potomac Compact for Fair Representation bill to establish an interstate agreement for electoral reform across both Maryland and Virginia, states that are political opposites of each other. Maryland has a Republican governor and Democratic legislature, while Virginia has a Democratic governor and Republican legislature.

This plan seeks a creative compromise between the parties by creating independent redistricting commissions across both states. These commissions would be empowered to create larger congressional districts from which multiple candidates could be elected.

“Everybody hates gerrymandering, but there is not a lot of clarity about what exactly the problem is,” Senator Raskin said in an interview with IVN.

“The media likes to focus on the aesthetic of imperfectly drawn, non-geometric figures. But the real harm being done is the way we design congressional delegations that are not fairly reflective of the political will of the people of the state. That’s the real offense taking place.” – State Sen. Jamie Raskin

If the multi-member district method is adopted, the hope is that fair and proportional representation would be more likely. In a district that elects two representatives, for example, the majority of voters would always elect a seat. However, a candidate who wins 45% of the vote would also have the chance to win a seat.

This process would do away with the monopoly that a party could have on representation in any given area.

The real harm being done is the way we design congressional delegations that are not fairly reflective of the political will of the people.
Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin

The idea came about when Raskin looked at the legislatures for Maryland and Virginia and saw the partisan gridlock in place.

“Nobody does anything about gerrymandering because the party in power has the means to make a change, but no incentive to do so, and the party out of power has the incentive to make a change but no means to do so,” he explained.

According to Raskin, this plan would ensure that both states, which are politically mirror images of each other, are serious about fair, proportional representation.

“The stars are aligned here to do something about it. I believe we need to think beyond Maryland’s borders and look at interstate solutions to make real progress. No one wants to be the first state for unilateral reform.”

In response to Governor Hogan’s recent proposal to implement a 9-member independent redistricting commission in Maryland (3 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and 3 independents), Senator Raskin remarked that “Maryland is unlikely to want to pass his plan alone.”

“Beyond the fact that my plan is more politically feasible, I think it’s also a better plan because it identifies what the real issues are. The problem is not the shape of the districts, the problem is the distribution of seats in the delegation once the districting is done.” – State Sen. Jamie Raskin

He believes that gerrymandering can represent a challenge to all Americans to rise above party politics and devise creative solutions.

“A lot of people have become cynical and jaded about the possibility of any structural democratic reform,” he said. “But I don’t feel that way. I’ve been part of historic changes in our state, including restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, the National Popular Vote Plan, and compulsory disclosure of independent expenditures. The Maryland General Assembly is a smart legislature that will understand this plan.”

Raskin’s bill has a scheduled Senate hearing on March 3, 2016.

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21 comments
Vin Gen
Vin Gen

Eliminate States altogether by creating equally populated Federal Districts where ALL laws are uniform across the country!

Darlene Ruiz
Darlene Ruiz

Prefer we select office holders the same way we do jurors, by lottery of qualified citizens.

Kathy Parslow
Kathy Parslow

I took it to mean reviewing each other's districts. Virginia currently has a movement in place to change our gerrymandering. It stalled in assembly but the movement is strong and the goal is impartial independent redistricting by 2020

Kathy Parslow
Kathy Parslow

I like this idea but not with the two states so close to each other

Kathleen Robertson
Kathleen Robertson

A fix will not change the gerrymandering, nor would it make the two party system fair. Also .. Eliminate the outdated electoral college, which would require a constitutional amendment .. Check out how other nations choose the method for determining legislative districts.

Otto Matic Ohman
Otto Matic Ohman

people dont kno what will happen after they vote their "Hero" in, anymore. Usually bad side effects. as far as term limits, let em run as long as the people will have them.

Bill Hauger
Bill Hauger

In that case, why not just do away with states. Just a federal govt and local governments. No state elective offices, no state laws, no state taxes, etc. Or we could give this a very limited try by placing all of DC within the elective boundaries of MD.

Steve Hall
Steve Hall

Yet again Annapolis leaves Western Maryland without fair representation in government.

Ben Hardin
Ben Hardin

“…creating independent redistricting commissions across both states.” Does this mean parts of some congressional districts would be in one State and parts of others would be in the other State? What would be the advantage of that? Would it be that States would trade voters? Why should redistricting be in the hands of political operatives? One would expect they would wrangle for advantage for their respective parties when the real objective should be improved representation. IMO hiring of commissioners should be partly on the bases of political impartiality, technical expertise and lottery for choosing from a pool of applicants. I’m all for multi-member seats but why should an interstate compact be necessary for that objective? Is it to get around a law against multi-seat congressional districts? By my calculations, and keeping each multi-seat district within one State boundary, Maryland should have two districts with four seats for each district and Virginia should have one district with six seats and one district with five seats. The apportionment issue is discussed in the January 13 posting on the FB page Electoral Reform for a More Favorable Congress.

Kerry Woods
Kerry Woods

oooooh...is it "Constitutional"...or some evil transgression of "democracy"?

Matt Redmond
Matt Redmond

Scrap the two party system. Each individual politician runs on his own platform. Also term limits for all positions...

Suzy Olson
Suzy Olson

Get rid of the electoral college and the super delegates. Popular vote!! This is common sense! Everybody's vote will count!!!

Tom Shawhan
Tom Shawhan

Funny how no BLM member has criticized the column looking facade as a resemblance of a plantation home to be torn down.

Debra Goudy
Debra Goudy

Florida has been in and out of court for years over gerrymandering, nothing democratic about it.

Chris Green
Chris Green

It's called "gerry mandering" Congressman. Fix your state and you wont have to be concerned with your neighbors.

Jamie Keniston
Jamie Keniston

A unique idea. I am curious to see how far it will get.

Dissident Politics
Dissident Politics

According to Sen. Raskin, “Everybody hates gerrymandering, but there is not a lot of clarity about what exactly the problem is.”

Huh? What??

The problem is crystal clear, and it has zero to do with aesthetics as seen by the press or anyone else. 

My preference: Gerrymander the heck out of voting districts with no regard to anything other than maximizing (i) voter power and (ii) competition. If those pro-voter, pro-competition gerrymandered districts look bad to some people, so what? 

Like everything else in politics, beauty and ugly is subjective and in the eye of the beholder.

Athena
Athena

After reading this, I am team Senator Raskin! Thanks for conducted the interview, Greg. 

Jeff Marston
Jeff Marston

Looking forward to hearing about the next steps.

bob
bob

Great interview Greg! Would that kind of agreement would be the first of its kind in US politics? Interesting to see how this shakes out.