ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s senators debated on Wednesday whether the state should take a regional or local approach to congressional redistricting.
Senate Republicans ridiculed a congressional redistricting reform bill supported by Democrats as an insincere “joke.”
The bill from Sen. Craig Zucker, D-Montgomery, creates a compact among six Mid-Atlantic states — Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina — requiring each of them to vote and move together to a nonpartisan congressional districting process.
If all six states pass similar legislation, each state would have a nonpartisan independent commission draw congressional lines.
The Maryland Senate gave the measure initial approval Wednesday, along a mostly party-line vote.
Democrats say the bill would ensure a party balance in the U.S. House as states moved toward more compact and contiguous district boundaries.
Republicans — who would stand to gain a member among Maryland’s congressional delegation — say the six-state compact is very unlikely to happen and that Maryland should act on its own.
“It’s just stupid. I mean, I don’t know how else to put it. We are in charge of our own redistricting and then to throw out a bill on the floor that says, ‘Oh, we’ve heard your concerns. We’ll fix it when five other states agree with us.’ No. That’s not how it works,” Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, said this week.
Frederick County’s Democratic senator disagreed.
“I wish that every state would redistrict and I wish that all of the districts were contested districts instead of the way we have it,” said Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3. He said districts that are gerrymandered across the country to be “safe” for incumbents offer no incentive for lawmakers to compromise and they intensify political ideology.
Earlier this week, a House panel rejected Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s redistricting reform bill, which would have put the drawing of congressional districts in the hands of an independent commission, among other changes.
A Goucher College poll in February found that 75 percent of Maryland voters support an independent commission to draw district lines, compared to 19 percent supporting elected officials making those decisions.
A federal lawsuit challenging the state’s current congressional map, which took effect in 2012, is pending in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.