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 Maryland Senate on Thursday postponed its attempt to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation that would give felons the right to vote as soon as they leave prison. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said Thursday the vote was moved to Feb. 5 to allow the chamber time to fill an open seat. Lawmakers did override five other vetoes Thursday. Two bills will change the way hotel taxes are collected, $2 million will go toward the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, a community arts center in House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s district, possession of a marijuana pipe will become a civil offense, not a crime and the power of police and prosecutors to seize property will be limited.
Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he is concerned about Maryland’s new voting system “collapsing” next year due to problems found during testing, but the state’s elections administrator said she was confident in the system, which will have paper ballots as a backup. The voting system came up unexpectedly at a Board of Public Works meeting, when Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat and one of three board members, asked how the state will manage voter education and outreach after a nearly $1 million contract was rejected by the board several months ago. Hogan, also a board member, said he was more concerned about the condition of the overall voting system, rather than what he described as a public relations campaign. … Linda Lamone, the state elections administrator, said some problems were found during testing, and elections officials are working to correct them. Lamone said officials haven’t verified exactly why there was a problem registering about 3,000 votes in Howard County. She said it appears a memory stick that was taken out of a voting unit and put into another device wasn’t recognized when returned to the system, because it apparently sensed there had been tampering.
A Maryland task force proposed Tuesday that the state allow an independent panel to draw the state’s voting districts, widely cited as some of the most gerrymandered in the nation. The proposals, approved 9 to 1 by a commission appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), will go to Maryland lawmakers as they prepare for the next legislative session to begin in January. “These reforms would put Maryland in the front ranks of redistricting reform and establish an independent, balanced approach to creating congressional and state legislative districts,” the task force said in a report released Tuesday.
The governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission wrapped up its final report Tuesday calling for an independent, bipartisan commission of nine people to draw congressional and legislative district lines, with no politicians involved. All but two Democratic legislators on the 11-member reform group voted for the final report setting up the kind of independent commission Gov. Larry Hogan had called for. Good government groups in the Tame the Gerrymander coalition, including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, applauded the outcome. The Maryland Democratic Party called the work “fundamentally flawed” and “predetermined by a small group of Republican insiders.”
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.”
One week from today, the governor’s commission on congressional redistricting is scheduled to issue a final report to the governor to create an independent commission that would draw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts. Governor Larry Hogan favors the commission, as an alternative to the current system where the governor appoints a panel to create the boundaries and the legislature approves the plan in tact. Hogan and other critics have said the current system favors the Democrats and creates oddly shaped districts that divide communities.
As we look back to the future this week, the problems of congressional and legislative redistricting are not new in Maryland, and potential solutions aren’t particularly new either. Maryland’s Constitutional Convention of 1967 dealt with the same issues Gov. Larry Hogan’s Redistricting Reform Commission is grappling with this week: what kind of group should draw the lines, who should serve on it, what standards for the districts should they follow and even whether all the members of the House of Delegates should serve in single-member districts. Maryland’s 1867 constitution was rewritten a hundred years later after a long-involved process by elected convention delegates much like the current General Assembly. But voters ultimately rejected the entire document which had political opposition on many fronts, including its proposal for single-member delegate districts.
The Republican majority on the Montgomery County Board of Elections, led by an appointee of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), voted Monday to shift two heavily used early-voting sites to less populous locations, prompting Democratic charges of voter suppression. The board voted 3 to 2 to move early voting from the Marilyn Praisner Community Center in Burtonsville, which serves high-poverty East County communities along U.S. 29, to the Longwood Community Recreation Center in Brookeville, 13 miles to the northwest.
For roughly two hours Monday, 10 members of the new Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission listened to voters and elected officials alike vent about the state’s congressional and legislative district maps. Speakers told them they felt disenfranchised and distressed. They said their voices had been silenced, and their views weren’t represented. “They’re frustrated and apathetic,” former district court judge and commission co-chairman Alexander Williams Jr. concluded after the hearing. “People want something done.” Monday’s hearing, conducted at Hagerstown Community College, was the second in a series the 11-member panel is holding across the state.
Maryland: Redistricting Reform Commission holds first meeting with just 10 weeks to act | Maryland Reporter
Gov. Larry Hogan’s 11-member Redistricting Reform Commission, created on Aug. 6 by executive order, met for first time near the State House Thursday where they outlined their first steps to reform the process of drawing Maryland’s congressional and legislative district lines. In order to combat Maryland’s A+ grade in gerrymandering, an unlucky subject to be excelling at, the commission plans to hold four to five “regional summits,” or public hearings, over the next two months. The final outcome will be a report outlining voters concerns with redistricting, due to the governor and General Assembly leaders by Nov. 3, less than 10 weeks from now. The commission will have to produce a quick turnaround with a “fairly aggressive” schedule, according to the governor’s office. In addition to the report, the commission is tasked with recommending a constitutional amendment on congressional and legislative redistricting to be introduced during the Maryland General Assembly’s next legislative session.
Editorials: Redistricting reform in Maryland and Virginia: Can the states join forces? | The Washington Post
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?
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he has issued an executive order to create a commission to study redistricting reform in Maryland. “Maryland is home to some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country, a distinction that we should not be proud of,” Hogan (R) said. According to the governor’s office, the commission will look at fully reforming Maryland’s redistricting process and giving the authority to an independent, nonpartisan commission. It also will give recommendations for congressional district reform. Maryland last redistricted in 2010, with the maps taking effect in 2012, according to the Maryland Department of Planning. Like all states, Maryland redistricts every 10 years.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) is breaking with other Democrats again over redistricting, saying she’s open to an independent commission proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). “I have long supported redistricting reforms to end the damage partisan gerrymandering does to our democracy,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing Governor Hogan’s announcement to see whether it is truly independent of partisan politics.” All but one of Maryland’s eight congressional districts are held by Democrats, thanks in part to boundaries drawn by Democratic leadership after the 2010 Census. Hogan is creating an 11-member panel to recommend a new process. The Maryland Democratic Party says the lines shouldn’t be redrawn until there’s nationwide agreement on reform.
Following through on a promise, Gov. Larry Hogan created a commission Thursday to recommend how to reform the way Maryland draws its congressional districts, widely regarded as among the most gerrymandered in the nation. Hogan said he hopes to put a constitutional amendment before voters in 2016 to change the way the maps are drawn. The idea won immediate praise from election reform advocates such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, but it was quickly dismissed by Democrats who control the General Assembly. “It’s not going to happen,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said. At a State House news conference, Hogan called the results of the last two redistricting cycles — both carried out under Democratic governors — “disgraceful and an embarrassment to our state.”
The 3rd congressional districts in Maryland and Virginia are roughly 200 miles apart — depending on which part of their ungainly boundaries one takes as a starting point — and, on the surface, seem to have little in common. Virginia’s 3rd stretches from Norfolk to Richmond. Maryland’s 3rd, with contours often likened to a blood spatter, incorporates parts of Baltimore City, as well as parts of Anne Arundel (including Annapolis), Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties. What they share is a genesis in bald-faced gerrymandering contrived by politicians intent on manipulating electoral maps to their advantage by hand-picking their own voters. Democrats are the culprits in Maryland’s case; Republicans did the deed in Virginia. Encouragingly, there are signs that the jig may be up, or that at least it is facing more pressure than ever before.
When Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a Maryland bill that expanded voting rights, he angered a group of people who were never able to vote for him in the first place: felons still serving prison time, probation or parole. Maryland — like every state but Maine and Vermont — restricts the voting rights of felons. Some states bar felony inmates from voting, others extend the prohibition to offenders who are on parole or probation. Several states withhold voting rights from people who have been out of the criminal justice system for years. More states are considering restoring the right to vote to felons, with supporters saying that once their debt to society is paid they should be allowed to exercise a fundamental right. This year, 18 states considered legislation to ease voting restrictions on felons; Wyoming was the only state to pass such a bill. That’s up from 13 states that considered bills last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Former county executive candidate Jim Shalleck will lead the Montgomery County Board of Elections as the board majority shifts from Democratic to Republican. Shalleck, a Republican, was appointed to the elections board in February by Gov. Larry Hogan and confirmed by the Senate. Shalleck was unanimously elected to serve as president of the seven-member board on Tuesday. “I’m very honored by this and grateful to the governor,” he said. For the next four years, local boards of election across the state will be led by Republicans. State law dictates that the majority party — the party of the sitting governor — have a majority on local elections boards.
What is the logic behind state laws that deny the vote to people who have been convicted of a felony, even after they are released from prison? The short and easy answer is: there isn’t any. For a longer, nonsensical answer, ask Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who on May 22 thwarted strong majorities in both houses of the state legislature to veto a bill that would have restored voting rights to about 40,000 Maryland residents currently on probation or parole.
Editorials: Veto of felon voting bill disenfranchised 40,000 Marylanders | Cory McCray/Baltimore Sun
After the death of Freddie Gray, leaders from Annapolis came into our neighborhoods, shot some hoops, attended church services and gave lip service about change. But those leaders have never endured the high levels of poverty, lack of access to fresh food, dilapidated housing or high levels of joblessness that plague those neighborhoods. That is why many community members were not convinced by their words. On Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan gave them more reason to be skeptical. At 2 p.m. on the Friday before a holiday weekend, when many people were already away on vacation, he vetoed House Bill 980, which restored voting rights to ex-felons upon their release from prison, rather than waiting until they’re off parole or probation.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed six bills Friday, including legislation that would have allowed thousands of felons to vote and a measure to tax online travel services at the same rate as hotels. … The voting legislation, which came in the form of companion bills from the Senate and House, would have applied to an estimated 40,000 people on probation or parole. The bill was inspired, in part, by the national conversation about racial profiling, sentencing guidelines and police conduct after violent deaths last year in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island.
Gov. Larry Hogan took out his veto pen Friday, rejecting a bill that would allow felons to vote as soon as they leave prison rather than waiting to finish parole or probation. The veto, one of several announced by the governor’s office, quickly drew a pledge from the legislation’s sponsor to find the votes to override. “I just think Maryland should be more progressive,” said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat. She said she needs to line up only a handful of additional votes in each chamber to override Hogan’s veto when the General Assembly returns in January. In a letter to legislative leaders, Hogan said current law that makes felons wait to vote until completing all aspects of their sentence “achieves the proper balance between repayment of obligations to society for a felony conviction and the restoration of the various restricted rights.” The Republican governor was not available for interviews Friday, aides said.
Two Democrats in the Maryland Legislature want to change the way U.S. Senate vacancies are filled, and Republicans are crying foul. We understand their distress, but the bill sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin and Delegate David Moon, both of Montgomery County, is a more democratic and less political method of filling a vacancy should a U.S. senator resign or die before his or her term ends. Current law empowers the governor to appoint a replacement until the next statewide election. That could conceivably mean a full two years in the U.S. Senate for a political appointment, as opposed to someone chosen by voters. But Republicans are understandably irked at the timing of this legislation. If Democrats are so sold on its merits, why was it not introduced during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s eight years at the helm? ”It’s interesting that the first year of a Republican governor, they’re trying to strip powers from him,” state GOP executive director Joe Cluster said in a recent Baltimore Sun story. Both Raskin and Moon argue that the bill will put this power appropriately in the hands of voters.
Maryland almost certainly will not enact reforms to the way it redraws legislative and congressional districts this year because the most powerful proponent of the idea, Gov. Larry Hogan, isn’t pushing it. He wants a commission to study the issue and provide advice on the best way to remove partisan politics from the process, and given the variety of reforms other states have tried in that vein, his approach makes sense. But he’d better not wait for long, otherwise the unique conditions that make this reform possible will soon evaporate. Many of the Democrats who control Maryland’s General Assembly would probably agree philosophically that district lines should be drawn without party politics in mind, and few would be willing to mount a defense of the state’s Congressional districts, which are generally considered among the nation’s most gerrymandered. But the reason reform efforts have gone nowhere in the past is that the Democratic powers that be viewed them as unilateral disarmament in the face of aggressive gerrymandering in Republican-dominated states. Indeed, a number of Democratic lawmakers have explicitly suggested that Maryland should not enact such reforms unless it could recruit a buddy state dominated by Republicans to make an offsetting switch at the same time. That’s another way of saying it’s never going to happen.
Some state lawmakers are hopeful the stars are aligned for Maryland to change the way it draws its political districts — a process that has resulted in some of the most convoluted maps in America. Their hopes were bolstered recently when Republican Gov. Larry Hogan devoted part of his first State of the State address to a call for redistricting reform. “We have some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country. This is not a distinction that we should be proud of,” Hogan said. “Gerrymandering is a form of political gamesmanship that stifles real political debate and deprives citizens of meaningful choices.” Hogan said he would create a commission to study the state’s redistricting system, but some lawmakers are not waiting for its findings. They are proposing bills aimed at taking politics out of a process that has helped Democrats achieve lopsided majorities in the General Assembly and turn the congressional delegation from a 4-4 split in the 1990s to a 7-1 advantage over Republicans.