Fatally Flawed, Phony Bill Would Eliminate Chance of Real Redistricting Reform in Maryland
Governor Larry Hogan today vetoed Senate Bill 1023, which would prevent Maryland from moving forward with nonpartisan redistricting reform. He was joined by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, Redistricting Reform Commission co-chairs Judge Alex Williams and Walter Olson, Commission members Tessa Hill-Aston of the Baltimore City NAACP, Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, and Ashley Oleson of the League of Women Voters, Baltimore County Senator Jim Brochin, and House Minority Leader Nic Kipke.
“Instead of choosing fairness and real, nonpartisan reform, legislators pushed through a phony bill masquerading as redistricting reform. It was nothing more than a political ploy designed with one purpose: to ensure that real redistricting reform would never actually happen in Maryland, which is why I am vetoing this misguided legislation,” said Governor Hogan. “We will continue our fight to clean up the political process in our state, to ensure that the best interests of Maryland’s citizens are being represented fairly and honestly, and that the voices of the people we were elected to serve are finally heard.”
The governor detailed several fatal flaws in the legislation, including making any reform in Maryland contingent on five other states taking action; only applying to congressional districts and not state legislative districts; and creating a politically-charged commission with members selected by legislative leaders instead of removing politicians from the process, as the administration’s proposed legislation would do.
“I agree with the governor that the present bill just doesn’t go far enough, it’s not sufficient, and I support his efforts to veto this bill,” said Judge Williams. “I trust the citizens of Maryland, and we need to put something before them that is fair, that is balanced, that is independent, and that is nonpartisan.”
Nonpartisan redistricting reform is supported by the vast majority of Marylanders, and the state is widely recognized for containing some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation. The governor’s veto letter points out that Maryland’s redistricting process is currently the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit, in which the former governor and senior elected officials have been deposed. The letter quotes recent comments from former Governor Martin O’Malley, who said in January 2017: “As a governor, I held that redistricting pen in my own Democratic hand. I was convinced that we should use our political power to pass a map that was more favorable for the election of Democratic candidates.”
During the Hogan administration’s first year in office, the governor established the non-partisan Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, which traveled the state to seek input from the public. In consultation with the commission, the administration introduced legislation in 2016, and again in 2017, that would make Maryland a leader in reform and develop a new process, independent from political influence. During both legislative sessions, the governor’s legislation was not brought to the floor for a vote.