Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a redistricting measure passed last year could be the subject of an override vote Friday in the state Senate.
The legislation would set up a commission to redraw congressional district lines after the federal census is conducted — but only if New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia also adopt similar legislation.
Hogan, who has made redistricting reform a priority of his administration, called the measure “a phony bill masquerading as redistricting reform” when he vetoed it last year.
“It was nothing more than a political ploy designed with one purpose — to ensure that real redistricting reform would never actually happen in Maryland,” he said.
The governor noted that the bill not only relied on agreements from five other states to become effective, but even if it did, the commission would be “selected by legislative leaders instead of removing politicians from the process, as the administration’s proposed legislation would do,” he said.
Hogan proposed reform bills last year and the year before that would establish an independent commission to redraw district lines after each 10-year census. Neither got out of committee.
Complaints of gerrymandering districts to favor one political party over another have been an issue not only in Maryland, but in other states.
The U.S. Supreme Court presently has two gerrymandering court cases before it. The high court already has heard a challenge from Wisconsin, where Democrats charge that districts had been drawn to benefit Republicans.
The court agreed last month to hear a case involving Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Washington County.
The plaintiffs, including Jerry DeWolf, chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee, contend the district was drawn to benefit Democrats.
Earlier this week, a lower court ruled North Carolina’s district map unconstitutional because its Republican-leaning districts violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection. The court ordered the state to draw a new map by Jan. 24.
As the Maryland bill was being debated last year, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller noted the various lawsuits, and suggested that the courts might deal with the issue before any legislation alters the current method of redrawing districts, which rest on an advisory committee appointed by the governor.
The panel proposes congressional and legislative district plans, and the governor then submits his plans to the General Assembly as bills for passage.