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.
Many of the reforms in the rejected constitution were implemented through individual constitutional amendments by Gov. Marvin Mandel, such as our current system of trial and appellate courts. However, Mandel and the legislature did not pass the bipartisan and somewhat independent Legislative Redistricting Commission the constitutional convention had proposed.
Instead, in 1972, voters approved a constitutional change giving us the redistricting system we have now. It puts the governor in charge of drawing maps which lawmakers can only reject if they come up with their own plans.