Democratic legislative leaders in Maryland issued rote rejections of Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) utterly sensible proposal for congressional redistricting reform last week. In doing so, they were reading from a script that could have been prepared for them by Republican legislative leaders in Richmond, whose equally knee-jerk dismissal of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) efforts have doomed redistricting reform efforts in Virginia. So here’s a modest suggestion that would have the novel effect of elevating the interests of voters in each state, not to mention good government, above the partisan self-interest of incumbent politicians. Why don’t Maryland and Virginia initiate a mid-Atlantic reform compact whose overriding goal would be to tip the scales in favor of fair elections and against rigged ones?
A logical starting point for such a compact is the fact that the two states’ political complexions are mirror images — one has a Republican governor stymied by Democratic legislators; the other has a Democratic governor foiled by Republicans. In both cases, elected lawmakers have arrogantly scoffed at reforming the process by which congressional maps are drawn, preferring to gerrymander districts for maximum partisan advantage.
The results are travesties such as Maryland’s 3rd District, which stitches together suburbs of Washington and parts of Baltimore and Annapolis in a tortuous outline that has been variously likened to a “blood spatter from a crime scene,” a “broken-winged pterodactyl” and a praying mantis.