While her colleagues debated how they might come up with an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission — as the governor instructed them to do — the highest ranking legislator among them urged them to propose something lawmakers might actually pass: Rational standards for compact and contiguous congressional districts. “Don’t you want to come out of this with something?” asked Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Senate committee that would likely handle any legislation the commission might recommend. “We want something that works.” The 11-member Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission was holding its first work session following a series of five regional hearings around the state.
Conway said they didn’t hear enough from younger voters or minorities at these hearings. But one issue on which there was general agreement was the need to write guidelines for congressional districts similar to those that apply to legislative districts.
Similar standards for legislature, Congress
Maryland’s constitution says General Assembly districts should have adjoining territory, be compact in form, and give due regard to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions. With no standards like that, Maryland’s congressional districts have become grotesque configurations in a state already oddly shaped, giving it some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country.