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:
Gov. Hogan’s Emergency Commission on Sixth District Gerrymandering is holding its next public hearing in Rockville next week. Come share what you think a fair 6th district would look like! Details:
Thurs., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
Montgomery College, Rockville Campus
Theatre Arts Arena
51 Mannakee Street
Rockville, MD 20850
Please share with others interested in free and fair elections and an end to gerrymandering in Maryland.
Major news Friday on two fronts in Maryland redistricting:
1) The Supreme Court will take up the Maryland gerrymandering case once again — its third trip to the Court — to review the three judge panel’s November decision finding the Sixth District unconstitutional.
2) The emergency commission to draw a new Sixth District compliant with the court’s opinion, on which I serve, met for the first time in Annapolis. One action we took was to schedule the three public hearings we will hold before adopting a recommended map. The dates and places (all 7 p.m., later venues TBD) are:
Frederick — Jan. 14, Frederick Community College, Jack B. Kussmaul (JBK) Theater, 7932 Opossumtown Pike, Frederick
Montgomery County — Jan. 31
Cumberland or Frostburg — Feb. 6
Coverage: Samantha Hogan/Frederick News-Post, Jennifer Barrios/Washington Post, Rachel Baye/WYPR, David Collins/WBAL, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun.
Frederick hearing coverage: Steve Bohnel, Frederick News-Post; Katie Misuraca, WDVM; Catalina Righter, Carroll County Times.
I joined hosts Darren Wigfield and Dave Schmidt on WFMD’s “Frederick’s Forum” on Saturday for a two-hour (!) show on gerrymandering and the Sixth District, with a little bit of unrelated talk about law and the Supreme Court toward the end. You can listen here: first, second portion.
On Monday Gov. Larry Hogan announced an executive order creating an emergency commission to redraw Maryland’s Sixth District to comply with a federal court order. (Coverage: WBAL, Maryland Reporter, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Capital Gazette, AP/ABC, Frederick News Post, Herald Mail (Hagerstown), WMAR, Maryland Matters, and many others. ) I’m honored to serve together with Judge Alex Williams as a co-chair of this commission, which will also include Ashley Oleson (no relation) and six more members.
This nine-member commission will be drawn equally from among registered Maryland Democrats, Republicans, and voters affiliated with neither of those parties. Qualified persons of all party affiliations are encouraged to apply. Applications close December 10. Some restrictions apply as explained at the link; for example, employees of the legislature and governor and officials of political parties are ineligible to serve. This is a unique opportunity for civic-minded persons to make a difference for the better in our state.
Shortly before being asked to be part of this effort, I discussed the Sixth District ruling in a podcast with the Frederick News Post’s Emma Kerr and Colin McGuire, as well as an interview with host Sheilah Kast at WYPR’s “On the Record”. I also joined West Coast-based libertarian radio host Bob Zadek for an hour-long show on the national aspects of redistricting reform.
Thanks Tom Coale, Candace Dodson Reed, and Ilana Bittner for having me as a guest on the Elevate Maryland podcast, which focuses on civic and political life from a Howard County vantage point. I join at the 20 minute mark and after a lengthy and detailed discussion of gerrymandering and the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission’s recommendations, we move on to topics like the comparative restaurant scene (E.C. vs. Rockville vs. Volt and Family Meal — must we choose?), accordions, and TV. [Player.fm, iTunes]