HB 1213


HB 1213 Maryland Congressional Redistricting Commission

POSITION: Support with Amendments

BY: Susan Cochran, President

DATE: March 10, 2014

The League of Women Voters of Maryland supports the principles of HB 1213 and we commend Delegate Mizeur and her co-sponsors for recognizing the need to reform the congressional redistricting process in Maryland.

The League is very pleased that this legislation adds additional criteria for the drawing of congressional district boundaries, including that they be geographically contiguous and that communities of interest be respected.  We are particularly pleased that the bill states that “a district may not be drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against an incumbent, a political candidate or a political party.”  Had such criteria been in place during the most recent redistricting in Maryland, district boundaries would more likely have been drawn to create rational districts that afford appropriate political representation to Marylanders.

Although the process of selecting the members of the Congressional Redistricting Commission appears complicated, we assume that it will result in a fair and politically balanced panel.  We encourage further consideration of this proposal – perhaps a less complex process could be developed for selecting the Commission members that would still ensure a fair and politically balanced panel.

As we understand the legislation, three maps certified by the panel will be subject to referendum.  The League feels that this method of creating congressional districts may be confusing to voters and time-consuming at the polling place.  Although citizen involvement is highly desirable, we believe that further study of the redistricting process, particularly the differing methods used by other states, could result in the creation of a process that would be more readily understood by the voters.

We are encouraged by the submission of so many pieces of legislation during this General Assembly session to address the faults and disadvantages of our current redistricting process.  The League strongly supports legislation to create a Study Committee or Task Force to examine the redistricting process in Maryland for both congressional and legislative districts.  We believe that such a committee or task force would provide the opportunity for legislators and all Marylanders to learn about redistricting criteria and successful redistricting processes in other states, and lead to the recommendation for a reformed redistricting process in Maryland.