TESTIMONY TO THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE
SB 414 General Assembly - Legislative Redistricting - Plan to be Introduced as a Bill
BY: Susan Cochran, President
DATE: January 30, 2014
The League of Women Voters supports a redistricting process that would, among other criteria for fairness, provide “maximum opportunity for public scrutiny.” SB 414 would significantly increase the opportunity for public scrutiny by requiring redistricting plans to follow ordinary legislative procedures for consideration, including public hearings in committees of the General Assembly and a recorded vote by members. Both the opportunity to provide testimony in public hearings and a recorded vote are critical elements for public scrutiny of the redistricting process.
Maryland’s current process permits a legislative redistricting plan to take effect without any vote by the General Assembly, which weakens democratic accountability to the voters. Although public hearings are traditionally held during the process of soliciting input for the redistricting process, the current process provides only limited opportunity for public comment on the lines proposed by the Governor. This is a significant flaw in the current process as the proposed lines generally become law with little opportunity for comment or criticism by the legislators whom the plan affects. Providing opportunity for public comment and requiring a vote by the body that it affects could help to increase the redistricting plan’s compliance with the Maryland constitution’s requirement that districts be compact and contiguous and that due regard be given to the boundaries of counties and municipalities.
We want to emphasize that the League continues to support more thorough reform of the redistricting process. In particular, we support the drawing of district lines by an independent commission that would be bipartisan and would not include any elected officials. This approach, widely supported by the public, would eliminate the unseemly appearance that the current system allows elected officials to select their voters, rather than empowering voters to select their representatives. Nonetheless, although the proposed constitutional amendment would not achieve all of the goals for reform that are supported by the League of Women Voters of Maryland, it would significantly improve the current process. We urge the Committee to report this bill favorably to the full Senate.
Again, we thank you for the opportunity to testify on this bill and we would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.
This testimony was resubmitted when SB 414 was heard by the Senate EHEA committee on February 27, 2014. Identical testimony was submitted to the House Rules Committee for its hearing on HB 1195 (same title) on March 10, 2014.