A lawyer for Maryland’s General Assembly has cast doubt on the legality of Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to take politics out of the redistricting process by shifting control from the governor and legislature to a nonpartisan commission. The idea of using an independent board to draw voting districts is broadly popular among Marylanders, regardless of demographics and political leanings, according to a recent Goucher College poll. But Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe, responding to a request for advice from Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore), said in a letter this month that she has identified 10 legal problems with the proposal by Hogan (R), which would amend the state Constitution to require that a nonpartisan commission handle the redistricting process. The goal of the legislation is to end the practice of gerrymandering, or manipulating legislative and congressional boundaries in ways that give one party an advantage.
The March 14 letter from Rowe effectively provides ammunition for Democratic leaders in the legislature who have resisted Hogan’s proposal and called for national redistricting changes that would apply equally to states where Republicans control the legislatures.
Hogan’s proposal would have to be approved by the state’s Democratic-majority legislature and by voters to become law. The legislation has stalled at the committee level in the House and Senate, eliciting criticism from Hogan.