Maryland Lawmakers to Consider Plan to End Partisan Gerrymandering

On November 3, the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission proposed a plan that would allow an independent committee to draw legislative districts. Under Maryland’s current system, the governor and legislature decide how electoral districts are drawn, and the new commission would disallow any politician from participating.

The plan was approved 9-1 by a commission appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan to determine a new method of drawing legislative districts.

According to The Washington Post, Gov. Hogan stated: “Republicans are not always the victims, and Democrats are not always the afflictors. There are states across the country where Republicans are just as guilty of the same type of gerrymandering that we have here in Maryland.”

These reforms would put Maryland in the front ranks of redistricting reform and establish an independent, balanced approach to creating ... districts.
The positions in the new redistricting commission would be open to the public, and selected by two Circuit Court judges and a Special Appeals Court judge to form a pool of 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and 10 independents.

Three from each pool would be chosen at random to make up the nine-member panel.

“These reforms would put Maryland in the front ranks of redistricting reform and establish an independent, balanced approach to creating congressional and state legislative districts,” according to the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission.

However, the MarylandReporter reports that the plan hit a snag when Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of the Court of Appeals, advised co-chair of the Reform Commission, Alexander Williams, to reject the provision allowing state judges to screen potential members of the redistricting commission.

While the future of the initiative is uncertain, many citizens are tired of malapportioned districts, and some have even taken matters into their own hands.

The oral arguments in Shapiro v. McManus were heard in the Supreme Court on November 3. The plaintiffs are a group of citizens who sued the chair of the Maryland State Board of Elections and the State Administrator of the Board, arguing that the structure of the state’s legislative districts violated their rights to political association and equal representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

However, in a previous ruling, the court was unable to conclude if partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional.

In the Supreme Court case Vieth v. Jubelirer, the plaintiffs argued that the legislative districts drawn by Republicans unfairly benefited the party, and that the plan was unconstitutional because it violated the one person, one vote precedent under Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Equal Protection Clause, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the freedom of association.

Ultimately, the plan was ruled unconstitutional because the court found that it created districts with different numbers of voters, thereby violating the one person, one vote principle, but did not find political discrimination in the malapportioned districts.

While the Supreme Court’s decision in Shapiro v. McManus may allow or disallow gerrymandering across the country, the Maryland legislature will decide whether or not to the practice will continue in its state.

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