As we reach the Christmas season and end of 2018, my family and I are grateful for the blessings we’ve been given in our lives. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunity to continue serving Carroll County in the State Senate and working to advance policies that will make our state better for families, retirees and job creators. Representing our area in Annapolis has been a great honor and incredible experience. I’m truly appreciative of the voters putting their trust in me to continue serving.
This is also the time for state legislators to look forward what’s to come in the 2019 General Assembly Session that will begin Jan. 9. One issue that has been a passion of mine is the battle to reform Maryland’s redistricting process and fix our gerrymandered congressional and legislative maps.
Our current congressional districts are the most gerrymandered in the country, and the designer — former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat — is on record stating that he drew them with the primary goal of maximizing the power of his party — already the dominant party in Maryland. That led him and his cronies to contort Maryland’s congressional districts nearly beyond recognition. I voted against and spoke out against his map when it was pushed through but it seemed like there were only a few voices crying out in the wilderness.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, took up the cause early on and has introduced legislation in his first term multiple times to establish a bipartisan commission made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents to redraw Maryland’s districts in an equitable manner that does not present partisan bias. Both years, the legislation was rejected by the majority party in Annapolis.
However, we’ve had a glimmer of hope. In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on a challenge to the legality of Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District covering Western Maryland. The three-judge panel unanimously agreed to throw out the clearly partisan congressional map and ordered Maryland to redraw the Sixth District by the 2020 election. Attorney General Brian Frosh, who supported Gov. O’Malley’s map as a state legislator, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
While waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether it will hear the appeal, Gov. Hogan has recently passed an Executive Order to commence the formation of a nine-person independent task force to redraw Maryland’s electoral map. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals gave Maryland until July 1 to submit a new map, unless the Supreme Court decides to hear Frosh’s appeal. Regardless of whether the Supreme Court decides to hear the case or not, Gov. Hogan will have the opportunity to fairly redraw Maryland’s districts following the 2020 census but will need the support of the Maryland General Assembly to pass it.
Marylanders want fair elections with fair districts that make geographic sense. It is definitely time for a change.
Justin Ready is a Republican state senator for District 5 in Carroll County and a resident of Manchester.