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Tuesday, August 18, 2015


George Wenschhof
After a surprise 2014 victory in a state that enjoys a 2-1 Democratic voter registration advantage, Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, has understandably moved forward to create a committee to recommend redistricting reform.
Democratic state senate president Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch have reportedly vowed to make sure this reform does not pass in the state legislature.
While Governor Hogan is moving in a direction I support in general, redistricting reform will not be obtained across the country using a state by state approach.  Instead, a national and uniformed approach is needed.  In fact, a constitutional amendment may be necessary to accomplish this much needed change.
The reason this attempt by Hogan and any individual state will fail is simple.  The Republican and Democratic parties will not voluntarily give up the power they enjoy to configure districts to their advantage.
It was the gerrymandering that created the current congressional district 6 in Maryland prior to the 2012 election that led me to pen a column published in The Baltimore Sun.  In that column, I argued it was time for redistricting reform and called for the creation by states of a nonpartisan committee to recommend redistricting, if called for by population changes reported by the census every ten years.
What has happened across the country over the last few decades has been radical redistricting within the 36 states where state legislatures perform this action.  These gerrymandered districts have created “safe” districts for the political party in control of the state.  Seven states have only one representative and the rest use independent or bipartisan commissions, with the state legislature still retaining approval in some of these states.
In Maryland, a strong Democratic state, 7 of the 8 Congressional districts are “safe” districts where Democratic candidates will enjoy a voter registration advantage.  The same protective carving out of districts also takes place in the other 35 states by their state legislatures.  Texas, a strong Republican state, does the same for the Republican Party.
With no need to campaign in a moderate manner to win election in these “safe” seats, candidates are often more progressive or more conservative. The result has been arguably a dysfunctional Congress made up of representatives mostly from the extremes of their political party.
These more extreme candidates from the two major political parties are currently elected by using deep rooted hyperbolic rhetoric and exhibit no intention of compromising on any issue that comes before them.
Sadly, the majority of voters across the country fall within the center left, the center, or the center right in the political spectrum and are now longing for representation in Congress.
Certainly, the establishment of nonpartisan commissions to handle redistricting not answering to state legislature approval is needed in all states.
However, this will not happen with a state by state process.  Why would either major political party voluntarily agree to alter their advantage in a state that would also alter their party’s representation in Congress?
The answer is they won’t. Maryland’s state legislature leaders Mike Miller and Michael Busch are replicated in Democratic and Republican controlled states across the country.
Voters eagerly want this change where they once again are able to vote for who their politician will be as opposed to politicians choosing who will be their voters.
So, the effort should continue, but the approach should change and if necessary, begin the process of a constitutional amendment.
This would be a major step in preserving democracy in the United States.  Getting the money out of politics is another..