Mostly links from before the pandemic crisis hit:
- Richard Vatz: To have passed the extravagantly expensive Kirwan education bill, with the handwriting already on the wall as to the state’s looming fiscal crisis, “is revelatory of the utter irresponsibility of Maryland’s lawmakers.” [Bryan Renbaum, Maryland Reporter]
- Montgomery County SWAT team shot Duncan Socrates Lemp in his home, and questions won’t go away [Jim Bovard/American Conservative, C.J. Ciaramella/Reason]
- “Maryland Charges Big Fines for Skipping Small Tolls” [Meg Tully, Maryland Reporter]
- Happy to get a request from Pennsylvania to reprint and distribute my chapter on redistricting and gerrymandering found on pp. 293-299 of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers (2017). Check it out;
- Senator Michael Hough (R-Frederick, Carroll) proposes limiting lawmakers to 20 introductions of general bills in a session [Danielle Gaines, Maryland Matters]
- Eastern Shore educators, fellow students unprepared as mental illness, violence mainstreamed into everyday classrooms [Mike Detmer, Dorchester Star, Bryan Renbaum, Maryland Reporter (Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford, urges legislative action)]
Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis have filed a “Potomac Compact for Fair Representation” bill, HB 182, the gist of which is to say that Maryland can go on gerrymandering until Virginia agrees to coordinate on reform. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but have you noticed that the Virginia reform ship is sailing all by itself?
P.S. Kind of related: a Pennsylvania lawmaker talks frankly about how the leadership in state legislatures use the gerrymandering power, with its discretion to dole out a good district or impose a bad, to arm-twist maverick lawmakers into submission:
Boscola [Democratic state Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County] said that because legislative leaders control the process, they can change the shape of districts to increase or decrease an incumbent’s chances of reelection.
Boscola, a senator for 18 years, served two terms in the House. There, she said, the threat of gerrymandering was used against her.
“I was told by my leadership in the House that I better behave and toe my party line, or I’d be out of my district,” she said.
I participated as both a speaker and a panelist in the November event “Getting It Right: Weighing the Options for Reform,” hosted by Fair Districts PA in Harrisburg. You can watch here.
I joined News Director Mark Kraham of western Maryland’s WDVM on “Issues and Insiders” to discuss gerrymandering and the Sixth District. You can watch on two video clips, from before and after the break.
I’m not in any mood to despair, as I explained to Bethesda magazine’s Dan Schere:
“I’m glad the suspense is over, because waiting is hard and not knowing what the options are is hard,” said Walter Olson, who lives in Frederick County who co-chaired the commission.
Olson, who is a fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute think tank, said he thinks public opinion in Maryland is strong enough against gerrymandering that the state legislature will decide to follow the example of the redistricting commission.
“It is up to Annapolis, after being shamed by the whole country by how bad its gerrymander is, to change it,” he said.
Asked if he felt the commission’s effort had been in vain, Olson replied that none of the nine members felt so.
“Our process produced a map that did what the court said,” he said. “We had strong marching orders to behave like good citizens, just the opposite of how the state had behaved in the past.”
Olson added that he was encouraged by the turnout at the public hearings, particularly at the ones in Western Maryland, which featured residents who feel gerrymandering reform is overdue in the state.
“It’s hard to ask them to be patient, because they’ve been asked to be patient for a long time,” he said.
By way of clarification I should add that I didn’t hear from everyone who served on the commission, but all those I did hear from appeared glad of what we accomplished and agreed that our work had not been in vain.
My take at Cato on the Supreme Court’s decision:
… If partisan gerrymandering is a substantial evil worth fighting – and I believe it is – we should now get serious about finding that remedy through other means. The Constitution’s Elections Clause provides that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations,” and in fact Congress has in the past prescribed to the states standards for districting. These include standards on compactness, a vital principle of good districting that all by itself would disallow many of the most garish gerrymanders by which U.S. House members reach the Capitol. Countering the gerrymandering of state legislatures is a tougher challenge, but even in states without a process for ballot initiatives it is a natural issue for reformist governors and others who run in non-districted races.
Around the country, machine politicians must be thinking they’ve got a free hand to draw maps even worse than the ones last round. We shouldn’t let them.
A few clips: Doug Tallman/MC Media, Dan Schere/Bethesda Magazine, Ryan Marshall/Frederick News Post.
On Saturday I joined Jennifer Charlton and Michelle Perez Newman for “Success Happens” on WFMD along with board of education president Brad Young. (He talked about school redistricting and I talked about legislative redistricting — two completely different issues.) You can listen here. And I joined Allen Etzler and Heather Mongilio at the Frederick News-Post’s podcast series Frederick Uncut on the same topic (more).
P.S. Spot the contrast here between incoming House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones, who says she’s disappointed at the Court’s refusal to remedy gerrymandering, and Senate President Mike Miller, who sounds maybe a bit jubilant [Maryland Matters]
Prof. Michael McDonald says that’s what happened at oral argument when the state’s lawyer characterized McDonald, an expert for the Republican plaintiffs, as having found the Sixth District “competitive.” [Medium, McDonald on Twitter]
Our Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering sent a proposed new Sixth and Eighth District map to Governor Hogan last week, which he immediately introduced as legislation. On Monday morning, again by a unanimous vote, we approved our final report to send to the governor, which was published yesterday. The core of the report, summarizing the public hearings and map submissions and explaining our choices and recommendations, is not long: pp. 14-25. So check it out.
You should also listen to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the subject:
More coverage, mixing the Supreme Court case from last week with mentions of our remedial efforts: Samantha Hogan, Frederick News Post (with picture) and earlier, Bruce DePuyt and Robin Bravender, Maryland Matters (also with good pictures), Tamela Baker, Herald-Mail (Hagerstown), Jennifer Barrios, Washington Post, Kimberly Eiten/WJZ, Dominique Maria Bonessi, WAMU; Maryland Association of Counties, Conduit Street podcast (redistricting segment is c. 21.30-30.00).
Also, Nina Totenberg’s approach to Schwarzenegger on the Supreme Court steps became a viral meme and I’m in it:
Now live: help fix Maryland’s gerrymandered Sixth District! This site (press release, guidelines) will let you propose and submit a map to Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency commission using the inline Maptitude software. Aside from enabling the construction of maps using census blocks and other units, the software will ensure that the map you submit complies with legal requirements for equal numbers of persons per district and contiguous territory.
The site also accepts maps via data files or hardcopy as well as public comments of all sorts to advise the commission in its work. Note that public comment and map submission is open for two weeks, until Feb. 27. If possible, try to submit earlier rather than later.
More: Diane Rey, Maryland Reporter in January, League of Women Voters of Maryland overview. And on a lighter note, from Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford on social media: