On Monday, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed legislation approved by the General Assembly, saying it would prevent redistricting reform in the state.
The bill backed by the leading Democrats would have authorized nonpartisan redistricting in Maryland, but only if five neighboring states agreed to do the same. Hogan regarded the bill as a political move that would have inhibited reform of the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn.
Hogan said Maryland would not wait on other states to act first and the legislature was disregarding the “overwhelming majority of the people of Maryland” who continue to support nonpartisan redistricting.
“Instead of choosing fairness and real nonpartisan reform, they push through a phony bill masquerading as redistricting reform,” Hogan said. “It was nothing more than a political ploy designed with one purpose in mind: To ensure that real redistricting reform would never actually happen in Maryland.”
Democrats are favored by Maryland’s congressional districts, which have been widely criticized for doing so. At the state level, Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. At the federal level, Democrats hold both Senate seats and all but one of the eight available seats in the House of Representatives.
Hogan and government advocates recommend creating a nonpartisan commission to draw districts that would impartially represent the political predispositions of a geographical area. The Maryland Democrats feel that many states have districted in a way that favors Republicans. They also agree that such tactics should not be utilized unless Republicans choose to do so, as well.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said in a joint statement they were disappointed that Hogan chose to veto a measure “that could help fix a broken Congress.”
Democrats in the General Assembly quashed Hogan’s plan in March, to remove lawmakers’ power to draw legislative and congressional districts. Hogan previously suggested handing such power over to a nonpartisan restricting commission.
As an alternative, leading Democrats approved a measure that would have permitted an independent commission to draw new congressional and legislative district lines, but only if five nearby states agreed to join a regional compact.
Busch and Miller put forward what was dubbed the Mid-Atlantic Regional Compact. If New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania all approved similar measures, all the states would draw congressional districts utilizing an independent panel.
The House of Delegates approved the measure by a vote of 87 to 51 and the state Senate 30-16.
It will be up to a federal court to determine whether Maryland’s redistricting maps that were passed in 2011 violates the GOP’s First Amendment rights. While the maps have been deemed legal, a judge said the 3rd Congressional District was “a broken-winged pterodactyl, laying prostate across the center of the state.”