Governor Larry Hogan today issued an executive order to establish the Maryland Citizen Redistricting Reform Commission, which will be charged with drawing fair legislative and congressional maps for the 2022 elections. “This commission is the first of its kind in the long history of our state,” said Governor Hogan.
In Maryland, the General Assembly has primary authority to draw both congressional and state legislative district lines.
The governor, aided by an advisory commission, submits a state legislative redistricting proposal. The legislature may pass its own plan by joint resolution, which is not subject to a gubernatorial veto. If the legislature fails to approve its own plan, the governor’s plan takes effect. Congressional lines are drawn solely by the legislature and may be vetoed by the governor.
The governor’s executive order charges the commission with producing fair maps for both state legislative and congressional districts that comply with a set of criteria, including:
- Complies with U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Respects natural boundaries and geographic integrity
- Does not take into account voters’ party affiliation
The Commission, which will be made up of nine members — three Democrats, three Republicans, and three Independents — will be co-chaired by Judge Alexander Williams (D), Walter Olson (R), and Dr. Kathleen Hetherington (I). The remaining six members will be selected from applications directly submitted by Maryland residents.
In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court last year ruled that partisan-gerrymandering challenges to electoral maps are political questions and thus beyond the reach of the federal courts, dismissing challenges by voters in Maryland and North Carolina.
The ruling held that Maryland did not have to redraw congressional election districts prior to the 2020 elections. Instead, the maps must be redrawn in time for the 2022 elections, in accordance with 2020 United States Census data.
According to a press release:
The selection of members intends to produce a commission that is independent from legislative influence, impartial, and reasonably representative of the state’s diversity and geographical, racial, and gender makeup. Apply for the commission at governor.maryland.gov/redistricting.
The commission will conduct regional summits to allow citizens to offer comment on the boundaries of the congressional and legislative districts, along with a listening tour prior to the drawing of the maps.
Statements from Commission Co-Chairs:
“I am honored to have been asked to co-chair the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission and to participate in the important task of drawing boundaries for legislative and congressional districts in Maryland,” said Judge Williams. “I look forward to working with other members of the commission in developing an independent and fair plan.”
“I am honored to have been asked by the governor to serve as one of the chairs of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, said Dr. Hetherington. “I look forward to working with Judge Alexander Williams and Walter Olson on the commission as we begin our charge.”
“Fair and impartial redistricting builds confidence in our democratic system,” said Mr. Olson. “Direct citizen involvement, sunlight, and fair districting standards have proven their worth in other states. I hope everyone who cares about democracy in our state will consider volunteering to serve on the commission, making your voice heard by way of public comments and hearings, or even filing proposed maps. I’m honored to be part of a process that can make history in Maryland.”