Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Redistricting

The problem with redistricting in a State such as Maryland is that with one party dominating, minority parties are left out in the cold. The chances for retention of districts with varieties of opinions begin to dim under one party rule. Partisanship takes the front line with fairness being pushed into the background. Sadly, that is what we currently have in the State of Maryland. This is where HB284 comes into play to help account for this.

Co-Drafted by 6th District Delegate Joseph Minnick, HB284 would establish a Legislative Districting and Apportionment Commission under the State Constitution. Who is on this Commission and what do they do? The Commission redistricts our state following the decennial census. The Court of Appeals compiles a list of 30 qualified persons, 10 of which from the majority party, 10 of which from the principal minority party, and 10 of which are independent of party or affiliated with a 3rd party. These people have to have been Maryland voters for the previous three years and may not have held elected office, run for elected office, or been a registered lobbyist. The majority and minority leader of the Senate and House of Delegates each select one member from this pool of 30. Then the Secretary of State serves as leader of a meeting of these four commission members, who then select from the remaining 26 people an additional 3 members of the Commission. What is very interesting about the 3 persons the Commission shall select to add to their membership is the following line - "The three additional members may not result in the Commission having more than two members who are affiliated with the same political party or who are not affiliated with any political party." For a total of 7 members in the Commission, this would allow for 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, 2 unaffiliated members, and 1 member of a 3rd party. What this Constitutional amendment does that is most important is create checks and balances in the redistricting process here in Maryland. This is exactly the type of innovation we need in legislative proposals. It's only fitting that the proposal was drafted by a Democrat and Republican working together; it was drafted in collaboration between Republican Delegate Steve Schuh and, as mentioned previously, Democratic Delegate Joseph Minnick.

As a citizen in the State of Maryland, I wholeheartedly support this Constitutional amendment. It is a solution to the problem of partisanhip in redistricting, and I welcome any reasonable idea to diminish the effects of partisanship on our nation. As always, your opinions are more than welcome. Thank you.

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