Gov. Larry Hogan’s redistricting commission may have been doomed from the start — its intent to reduce or eliminate gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts running at odds with the intent of the Democratic majority within the General Assembly to keep that particular weapon in their political arsenal. But at least opponents should have the decency to offer intellectually honest critiques. Sen. Joan Carter Conway’s complaint voiced during Tuesday’s meeting of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, as reported by the Capital News Service, failed to meet that standard. To put it in a nutshell, Senator Conway, a commission member, said a proposed nine-member panel that would be created to draw legislative boundaries — a group chosen at random from applicants vetted by randomly-selected state judges and with balance given to party affiliation so that no one party would dominate — would be “as far from independent” as legislators are. Really? To paraphrase a popular NFL pregame show, “Come on, ma’am.”
What the reform panel is proposing is about as far removed from party bosses as feasible. The nine-member group would have three Democrats, three Republicans and three independents. The three judges choosing the members from a candidate pool would be chosen at random, one from the Court of Special Appeals and two from Circuit Courts. And the candidates would have to have been Maryland residents for the past five years and not have switched parties or run for a seat in Congress or the General Assembly over that same period.
Now, perhaps such a screening process will still produce highly biased candidates, but collectively, it’s highly doubtful that the panel will heavily lean one way or another — which they’d have to do in order to meet Ms. Conway’s criticism. In fact, it’s worth noting that Democratic and Republican party leaders would much rather do the appointing themselves (essentially to ensure that party-affiliated members were as loyal to their parties as possible).