Updated: Maryland Governor Forms Redistricting Reform Panel - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Updated: Maryland Governor Forms Redistricting Reform Panel

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, in his first State of the State address in February, outlined plans for reforms to the state’s legislative redistricting process. (Photo: AP) Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, in his first State of the State address in February, outlined plans for reforms to the state’s legislative redistricting process. (Photo: AP)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan created a commission Thursday to study legislative redistricting reform in Maryland, which critics say has some of the nation's most gerrymandered congressional districts.
    
The 11-member panel will review approaches in other states that have established independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions. A report is slated to be completed by Nov. 3.
    
While Democrats have a 2-1 advantage in voter registration, the state's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are now filled by seven Democrats and one Republican. Hogan said the strong tilt to Democrats is a direct result of congressional maps that have been drawn by Democrats to strengthen their numbers.
    
"The current district maps are ludicrous, and the only rationale for this is politics and guaranteeing one-party rule," said Hogan, a Republican.
    
The panel will make a recommendation on a state constitutional amendment that will be introduced in the next legislative session, Hogan said. To get on the ballot, the amendment would need a three-fifths vote in both chambers of the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats.
    
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said he wants to work with the governor, but he believes the issue needs to be settled nationally, with Democratic and Republican input, so states aren't put at a disadvantage with one another. Miller noted that a few changes with an eye toward boosting Republicans would put incumbent Maryland Democrats at risk.
    
"A simple line change would end the career of John Delaney. Two simple line changes would end the career of John Sarbanes," Miller said, referring to the congressmen in Maryland's 6th and 3rd congressional districts, respectively.
    
The Senate president also noted that Maryland voters approved the state's current congressional redistricting map in 2012 with 64 percent of the vote, after opponents of how the map was drawn petitioned it to the ballot for voters to decide whether it should be redrawn.
    
Government watchdog groups have called for reforms. Critics held a 225-mile relay, dubbed the Gerrymander Meander, through the state's 3rd congressional district last year to call attention to its odd shape. A federal judge once described the same district as "reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state."
    
Nancy Soreng, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland, said redistricting reforms has been a priority for the league for more than 30 years.
    
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the state's current process is broken.
    
"Our districts sprawl across the state, slicing and dicing communities and neighborhoods, discouraging civic engagement in our democracy," Bevan-Dangel said. "Marylanders deserve an open, transparent, and accountable process and we hope that this commission will move us forward towards a stronger method."
    
Currently, the shaping of legislative districts every 10 years is largely in the hands of the governor, who submits a proposed map to the Legislature, which votes on it. Hogan would have a strong say in drawing the map in 2021, if he is re-elected in 2018.
    
"If they believe I'm going to be the governor in the next term when we draw the districts, they might be happy to take it out of my hands," Hogan said.
 

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