PoliticsWilliam J. Ford

Top Maryland Dems Launch Redistricting Commission

Maryland’s presiding officers announced Thursday a bipartisan commission will begin public hearings next month on plans to redraw new congressional and legislative maps for the state.

Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones said a seven-member Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission will hold 10 in-person town hall meetings throughout the state and two online.

“The Commission’s goal is to ensure that Maryland’s representation reflects its citizens,” Jones (D-Baltimore County) said in a statement. “The General Assembly will pass fair maps based on the robust public engagement and feedback of this Commission.”

It’s a process done every 10 years to reflect changes in the population, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has called the issue of gerrymandering, or manipulating district maps to benefit a particular group, as one of the biggest problems in the state.

One reason stems from the state’s eight congressional districts with Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) representing the sole GOP member in the federal delegation.

Although his 1st District along the Eastern Shore remains heavily conservative, former Del. Heather Mizeur seeks the Democratic nomination to challenge Harris in next year’s general election.

RepresentUs, an anti-gerrymandering group, published a report in May and called this year’s cycle in Maryland “extreme.”

That’s why Hogan signed an executive order in January to create an independent commission free “from legislative influence, impartial, and reasonably representative of the state’s diversity and geographical, racial and gender makeup.”

The commission has held hosted town halls and will submit maps to state lawmakers. However, the legislature doesn’t have to accept the group’s map and can redraw its own.

A nonprofit group called Fair Maps Maryland insists lawmakers review and accept the Hogan commission’s maps.

As for the legislative advisory group, Jones and Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) will be on the group along with two fellow Democrats, Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro and House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke of Montgomery County.

The two Republicans on the group are House Majority Leader Jason Buckel of Allegany County and Senate Majority Leader Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County.

Karl Aro, who has 32 years of redistricting experience and former executive director of the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, will serve as the chair of the commission.

“Voters in Maryland instilled their trust in this institution when they overwhelmingly supported our vision and policies in the last election,” Ferguson said in a statement. “The commission is an essential step in the redistricting process to ensure fair representation for Maryland’s democracy. We are confident that Marylanders will participate in this democratic process robustly to make their voices heard in the coming months.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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