ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today signed Executive Order 01.01.2018.29 creating an Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering, a nonpartisan commission to comply with a federal court order requiring Maryland to draw new boundaries for the 6th Congressional District. The governor also announced his intent to reintroduce legislation to create a permanent nonpartisan redistricting process for both congressional and legislative districts on the first day of the 2019 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
The governor was joined by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford; the co-chairs of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission Judge Alexander Williams, who was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. District Court in Maryland and Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies; and League of Women Voters administrator Ashley Oleson, who also served on the commission established by the governor in 2015.
In November 2018, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court ruled unanimously in the case of Benisek v. Lamone that Maryland’s 6th Congressional District is unconstitutional and must be redrawn prior to the 2020 election, giving a deadline of March 7, 2019. In his opinion, Chief Judge James K. Bredar referred to the type of partisan gerrymandering that had been inflicted on the voters of the 6th District a “cancer on our democracy.”
“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of American democracy and the most basic promise that those in power can pledge to the citizens we represent,” said Governor Hogan. “This unanimous ruling was a victory for the overwhelming majority of Marylanders who value fairness and balance in our political system – who are fed up with the divisive partisan politics that are used to suppress any honest debate or real competition of ideas.”
Governor Hogan previously submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Benisek v. Lamone when the case was set to be heard this past term; however, the Supreme Court opted to refer the case to the U.S. District Court. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is currently appealing the court’s ruling, despite public opinion surveys showing that the vast majority of Marylanders support nonpartisan redistricting reform.
The Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering will be charged with developing new 6th Congressional District boundaries in an open and transparent manner to address all constitutional violations. It will be comprised of nine members, including three registered Democrats, three registered Republicans, and three registered voters not affiliated with either party, and the commission’s meetings are required to be open to the public and live-streamed. The governor named Judge Williams, a registered Democrat and Mr. Olson, a registered Republican as co-chairs, and named Ms. Oleson, an unaffiliated voter, to serve on the commission. The additional six commission members will be selected from the public, who are invited to apply at governor.maryland.gov/free-and-fair by December 10, 2018 to be considered.
Any Maryland voter who has been registered with the same party, or not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties, for a minimum of three years is eligible to apply, provided they are not a candidate or member of Congress, an officer or employee of a political party or committee, a staff member for the governor, legislature, or Congress, or a current or former registered lobbyist. The executive order stipulates that the commission must submit a proposed redrawing of the 6th District for public comment by March 4, 2019, with a comment period to extend through March 26, 2019, and be finalized by April 2, 2019, for submission to the General Assembly.
To continue his long-term fight to restore fairness and competitiveness to all of Maryland’s congressional and legislative districts by the next regularly scheduled redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections, Governor Hogan vowed to introduce the Redistricting Reform Act of 2019 as emergency legislation on the first day of the 2019 session. This will be the governor’s fourth submission of this legislation, which has yet to be brought up for a vote by the legislature.
“The people of Maryland and the federal courts agree that the time for our state to act is now to finally restore balance and fairness to our elections, to once and for all remove the politics and the politicians from the process of drawing their own districts,” said the governor. “This legislation provides for a nonpartisan redistricting commission and the result will be a fair, nonpartisan, open, and transparent redistricting process for all legislative and congressional districts.”
In closing, the governor pointed out that on Election Day 2018, four states – Colorado, Utah, Michigan, and Missouri – approved ballot measures to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
“Maryland should be leading, but so far we aren’t even following,” said Governor Hogan. “The fight for fairness, transparency, and bipartisanship in our state is not just a typical fight between the right and the left – it’s more important than that – it is a fight between right and wrong, and it is a fight worth fighting.”