Gov. Larry Hogan announced last week that he will establish, by executive order, a bipartisan commission to explore ways to reform Maryland’s disgraceful and undemocratic redistricting process. The goal is to create an independent, bipartisan commission to handle this important task.

Of course, it would be to Hogan’s and Maryland Republicans’ political benefit to replace the current partisan system, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do. The highly prejudicial redistricting process that Maryland uses is an embarrassment to the Free State and needs to be replaced by an independent commission before the next U.S. Census in 2020.

This newspaper has editorialized numerous times on the inappropriate way that Maryland creates its congressional election districts. We support Hogan’s call for reformation of this blatantly partisan tradition. Getting rid of Maryland’s politically biased redistricting system is the right and fair thing to do for voters and the electoral process.

As reported in a recent Associated Press story, in his first State of the State speech, Hogan spoke about Maryland’s notorious tradition of gerrymandering election districts. “This is not a distinction that we should be proud of,” Hogan said, alluding to Maryland’s prominent place on the list of states where gerrymandering is employed to control the outcome of elections. Here, as in a number of other states, the redistricting process — the redrawing of the election-district map that follows each decennial Census — is controlled by the party in power.

The result can be highly irregularly shaped districts whose boundaries create the right mix of voters to ensure the desired election outcome. One of the districts on Maryland’s most recent map is among the most gerrymandered in the entire nation. Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District has been described as everything from a “crazy quilt” to a “blood spatter from a crime scene,” to our favorite, “a broken-winged pterodactyl lying prostrate across the middle of the state.”

For many Frederick County residents and other 6th District voters, this new map was a slap to the face. It helped ensure that 10-term GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett would go down in defeat to Democrat John Delaney, a Montgomery County businessman. It also silenced the political voice of majority Republican Western Maryland, from Frederick to Garrett counties. All this was accomplished by simply moving a populous chunk of heavily Democratic Montgomery County into the 6th District.

Many states already use a nonpartisan method for redistricting, most via an independent redistricting commission. Of course, it’s critical that such a body actually be nonpartisan. State Sen. Charles Middleton, D-Charles, says if the selection process “is done in a nonpartisan way, that’s fine. But you know,” he adds, “to set up a commission that you’re going to give this control, who appoints this commission? That becomes a political process in itself.”

He’s right, and defining that selection process may be this initial commission’s most critical challenge. There are a number of models to choose from among the states that have official redistricting commissions. We think it can be done to the satisfaction of both parties and voters alike.

We look forward to following the work of the commission and seeing what recommendations it comes up with. We look even more forward to a new election district map being drawn after the 2020 Census — a map we hope will be free of districts that resemble “blood spatter” or a “broken-winged pterodactyl.”

Maryland residents deserve to have their votes count. They also deserve to have an election process that they can believe in and support. Establishing an independent redistricting commission will help accomplish both of those important goals.

(42) comments

Reader1954

why not just have each county be its own district. That way no crazy new lines need to be drawn

des21

Each county doesn't have the minimum number of residents to be a Congressional district. It used to be 250,000. Its probably many more people today.

grania

Gerrymandering serves no purpose except to manipulate lines for the party who happens to be in power. Can anyone really change anything impartially in a political system that is most likely manipulated by an Oligarchy anyway?

FrederickVeteran

The gerrymander is an effective way to dilute certain groups political representation. White Western Marylanders should no more have their political clout diluted as Central Maryland Blacks yet no one even mentions that more blacks have suffered under gerrymandering than whites. If Hogan had an ounce of political savvy he cut have a deal and gone a log way to restore the old districts but he's already tainted the political pool with tea bagger W flight rhetoric that serves no purpose but to frighten perspective new businesses away and anger and motivate the base majority of lazy dems that didn't vote. Spewing extremist buffoonery and berating your own state a month into the job confirmed my suspicions about him that he never really never intended to win and has absolutely no clue, what or how to collaborate and build alliances with others.

des21

Oh boy. Why do I bother proposing sensible solutions?

MAVRICKinc7

FrederickVet: Can any of US conclude Hogan's postured position is a lie, or another lie in the making? Hasn't the State population been lying to itself for decades? Look what it had to offer instead of Hogan for governor? Isn't gerrymandering anything more than a political comfort zone the Democrats as well as the Republicans have installed in may other State maps and local maps of the Maryland region? Who are most/more people more comfortable with, other than being anything more than a foregone conclusion and voting by proxy rather than independent thought.Aren't you looking for the same market share in the electorate much the same as Hogan's Republican agents are conspiring to accomplish the same end as the Democrats have for decades?

We can LABEL "independent" in any fashion we want. What comes out at the other end however is the same BS both sides have been playing with for a century, The Commission will be just as partican as it has always been. The ASSIGNED players will have already been bought BEFORE this gerrymanding plays out again. What's currently going on now is the scripting of ANOTHER Comprise that neither party shares but lays claim to their share of the voting public from behind COMMISSION doors where the cards have already been stacked and dealt to and by Maryland's landlords, fiefdoms and Oligarchy governance.

Nothing has changed, even with Hogan at the helm. Gerrymanding is nothing more than another cattle call and distibution of political ideologies into any number of corrals that provides the public with 3 hots and a cot. While drawing lines on a map or in the sand, the outcome continues to be nothing more than herding cattle, and so will it be until the next CENSUS is taken and even the one after that. Gerrymandering was never intended to be anything else but a measure of zip codes and how much cream floats to the top at our coming elections.

I can only suggest that you develope a thicker skin and stick with the facts and not your own scripted emotions that lead US nowhere except at each other throats.

elymus43

Blame the voters for the same people back in office election after election. Term limits are needed.

lewisantq

This is a national issue. In the 2014 elections Democratic candidates in both Ohio and Pennsylvania got more votes that their Republican opponents. However, because of gerrymandering, the Ohio congressional delegation has 12 Republicans to only 4 Democrats and Pennsylvania has 13 Republicans to 5 Democrats. It's hard for me to blame the Democrats for doing the same in states where they are the majority.

des21

Well, imagine if there was an independent bipartisan commission so either party in control couldn't easily rig the game. I'm not naïve, I think things will still be done so that whomever rules the state house will influence the results but in Sept. 2004 The Economist had a cover which read "Pyongyang on the Potomac." Their point was that there was actually more turnover in the North Korean legislature at its most recent party congress than there was in the US Congress- largely because of gerrymandering by both parties so that, once the primary is won, the general election is a joke.

These guys and gals have gamed the system for far too long. These independent commission are a step to end this nonsense.

MAVRICKinc7

Independent decisions do not make for independent thought. Leave the human species out of the equation in forming a COMMISSION and you'll get better solutions than you could ever imagine. Forming another Commission is just our way of blaming STRANGERS for our lot in life. Why so? Because WE could care less what the outcome is, other than those who have the most to lose. These commissions are more about political strategies, designed to keep the public further at arms length than they already are.

richardlyons

For anyone who thinks Hogan's commission will be "bipartisan", there is a bridge in Brooklyn that may be of interest to you.

Sallyforth

[thumbup]

des21

It will be by its very composition, bipartisan meaning both Dems and Reps will serve by law. You may be way too clever for me if you see a way to take issue with the bipartisan nature of a bipartisan commission!

richardlyons

The outcome is predetermined, one need not be very clever to figure that out.

des21

I wish you would explain to be how that is. Choose 12 (or 6, or4) Reps, and the same number of Dems. How is that predetermined? I honestly don't understand.

richardlyons

"Bipartisan" does not mean equally divided. Bipartisan: Adj. representing, characterized by or including members from two parties or factions."
Ideally what you are suggesting, equal representation by fair, level headed individuals of both parties, in most certainly "bipartisan". If that is what Hogan puts in the Executive Order then OK. Why do I not think that will be the case?
Cynical I guess.

MAVRICKinc7

This simply begs the same issue. Who or what have you come to TRUST with the rest of your life? A simple case of skepticism not, cynicism, will whittle this list of who you can trust down to less than a half page of names. Everything else should be considered a crap shoot and odds you'll throw a snake eyes coming out of the gate.

DickD

Redistricting, on the basis of population might be the fairest but I was so happy, when Roscoe Bartlett got beat! And why does Frederick have to be thrown in the far right wingers of Garrett, Allegheny, and Washington Counties? We have more in common with Montgomery County than those far western counties.
Yes, there might be fairer ways, but as the article points out, selecting a committee by politicians is political and will end up with people of both parties being appointees that reflect the governor's beliefs. Besides, he will never get it through the Democrat controlled legislatures.

jerseygrl42

this travesty of injustice from omalley needs to be undone asap...Hogan is the real deal unlike omalley who was nothing but a dealer of other peoples money

DickD

We got rid of one nut, Bartlett, now four years from now we will get rid of Hogan![beam]

des21

Maybe, maybe not. I liked Roscoe. He was different. [wink]

des21

PS- he was my representative for, oh, I'd say had to be at least 8 months! Now, somehow, I have van Hollerin (sp?) !

massarosa

Gerrymandering is appalling, unless everyone else is doing it. It's not just the Dems of MD who've done this. It's lots of Republicans in other states as well. If any exemplary guidelines MD comes up with aren't also used in other states, I think, as another commenter stated, we should be careful what we wish for.

des21

Even California, where Dems outnumber Republicans by an even greater margin than in Maryland, has an independent bipartisan commission on this issue.

We can't manage events elsewhere and election rules are, by-and-large, a local governmental and state issue so we should probably just focus on doing the right thing here. In this case, the right thing is the fair thing and the thing that promotes stability over opportunism.

MAVRICKinc7

While a fine SENTIMENT it lacks the ingredients of reality. Check out Virginia and see how the Republican House and Senate are working in their interest only to perpetuate the Republican ideology and brand and not the Iikes of their democratically elected Govenor Terry McAuliffe.

It's like laying your head down for a good nights sleep and discover your bed has been short sheeted. Hogan will probably fair as much as McAuliffe has over the past year. No progress but lots of pent-up emotions.

Do your really think you can hold your breathe for the next 4 years? I doubt it.

des21

I have lived in Maryland for 7 years, moving within a radius of 20 miles twice and I am on my third Congressional representative. This is absolutely ridiculous.

Kudos to Hogan. An independent BIPARTISAN panel is the way to go.

(Now, please cue the political fundamentalists to tell me how he is an extremist taking us down the path to becoming Kansas and I am just a flunky of Rush, Briebart (sp?) and/or Matt Drudge. None of whom I ever consult.)

public-redux

During the 1980s banking/S&L crisis, I had money in 3 different financial institutions over an 18 month period -- and I didn't move my money even once. The best part what the successor banks sent me new free cheques but kept honoring the old ones. I never had to buy new blank cheques.

des21

I just keep getting new voter ID cards. [smile]

DickD

If you do on-line banking you will never need checks.[beam]

des21

I don't want that many people knowing my routing numbers. Stuff on the internet is way too insecure for me. Heck, I insist on paying for my FNP subscription by check so they don't have my CC number!

I am a Luddite

public-redux

Did you do a lot of on-line banking in the 1980s?

DickD

I am sure you will know how Hogan is an extremist after four years of his rule.[sad]

des21

Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. Then again, extremism is in the eye of the beholder isn't it.

MAVRICKinc7

BUT isn't being a Luddite as extreme as it was in the 19th century. Now we have sit-ins, protests and occupying Wall Street. How much money does commerce and capitalism lose every day to the likes of what you claim to be? Or is the admission of being a Luddite just a tease to see who is looking at today through the same lense of yesterady?

des21

I was just exaggerating about the Luddite thing but my wife and friends can't believe I still use stamps and listen to cds. Heck, I still have 100s of records! [smile]

I just prefer simplicity which I think is the focus for modern-day Luddites.

des21

PS- yes, kind of, to your last sentence. I don't plan on destroying any industrial equipment. [smile]

FrederickVeteran

Gerrymandering is wrong but the chances of the General Assembly ever restoring a republican leaning district in a state poised to become minority majority in two years is a fantasy.

bigdogs02

Do you think Delaney and Van Hollow are worried that Western Maryland will return to 'R' -- sure, O'Malley couldn't pass up creating yet another mess in this wonderful State.

dcg326

someone with good sense at last. Return the state to us voters ,needed.

besmartten

I have been embarrassed by our last districting map. It is easy to see that almost all states play this game to some degree, but Maryland's last shuffle of the voting boundary was humorous and sad.

It seems to me that the voting districts should attempt to follow the county lines as best they can. While this is not always possible for a variety of reasons the only reason for a map, as it is, of western Maryland, is to dilute the vote of citizens. I have never been a supporter of Mr. Bartlett, but felt shame at the computer generated map from this last time around. There was no honor in the last redistricting and I will hope that fairness will someday again prevail.

BlueDawn666

Be careful what you wish for because you might not like what your wish grants you..[wink]

MAVRICKinc7

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