LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS®
LWVMD Position: Redistricting
REDISTRICTING: Action to assure a state redistricting process and standards that promote fair and effective representation in the state legislature and House of Representatives with maximum opportunity for public scrutiny. (2004)
- A state redistricting process and standards that promote fair and effective representation in the state legislature and House of Representatives with maximum opportunity for public scrutiny.
An independent commission as the preferred redistricting body. The membership of the redistricting commission should:
- a. be appointed by the Governor, the General Assembly and the Court of Appeals;
- b. be bipartisan, geographically representative and not include any current state elected official.
Standards on which the redistricting plan is based should include:
- a. substantially equal population;
- b. geographic contiguity;
- c. geographic compactness.
- Final approval by the General Assembly for the legislative and Congressional redistricting plans.
- An amendment to the Maryland Constitution affirming that the redistricting process for the House of Representatives should occur only once each ten years after the census.
Background: Apportionment (or reapportionment) is the distribution of legislative seats among areas or governmental units entitled to representation. Districting, on the other hand, is the process of establishing the precise geographical boundaries of the territorial constituency. At the federal level, following each decennial census, Congress apportions the seats for the House of Representatives among the states, and then the states perform the actual Congressional redistricting. In Maryland the General Assembly adopts a state legislative redistricting plan that is based on a detailed reapportionment formula spelled out in the Maryland Constitution. This formula includes the basic standards of equal population, compactness and contiguousness.
These standards, however, are relatively new ones. During the 1960s after numerous legislative and judicial confrontations in Maryland and a number of other states, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a series of decisions whereby it declared that population equality must be the overriding criterion when redrawing U.S. Congressional boundaries. LWVMD played an important role during this period in successfully defeating several Congressional redistricting plans that created over-representation from Baltimore City and the rural counties at the expense of votes in the expanding Maryland suburban areas.
Although the population growth reflected in the 1960 census caused the General Assembly to deal with the problem of redistricting Maryland's Congressional seats, no immediate attempt was made to bring the state legislature into line with the census figures. It was during this period that LWVMD studied legislative reapportionment and adopted the two positions which were the cornerstone of League's reapportionment policy: our support of the distribution of seats in both houses on the basis of
population and our support of mandatory decennial reapportionment and redistricting to reflect population changes. (1960-63) When citizens’ action brought the issue to the courts in Maryland Committee for Fair Representation vs. Tawes, the League entered the case as amicus curiae (friend of the court). In 1964 this case was incorporated into the Reynolds vs. Sims decision, whereby the U.S. Supreme Court applied its "one man, one vote” ruling to all houses of every state legislature in the country. This ruling meant that Maryland Senatorial districts based on county boundaries and resulting in high population variances were unconstitutional.
Subsequent Supreme Court decisions during the early 1970s allowed the necessity for equal representation to be balanced against other considerations such as natural and political boundaries. The court's reasoning was based on the fact that there are a significantly larger number of seats in state legislative bodies to be distributed within a state than Congressional seats. As a result of these distinctions, overall population variances per state legislative district usually can reach 10% while overall Congressional population variances must stay below 3%.
The League worked for state legislative apportionment on the basis of population which was achieved by means of a Constitutional Amendment in 1970. The League's position on decennial reapportionment was achieved with the passage of an additional state Constitutional Amendment in 1979. Since these positions are now a basic component of state law and are covered by LWVUS positions, they were dropped at the 1983 Convention.
Another round of redistricting began in 2001 with public hearings across the state. The Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee released a draft plan after holding a public hearing in Annapolis. In the absence of a legislative alternative, the Governor’s plan became law the 45th day of the 2002 session. The plan was subsequently taken to court and a new plan, drawn by the Court of Appeals, was released and went into effect in June 2002.
In response to increasingly accurate technology, people complained of partisan redistricting plans across the country that either protected incumbents or created more “safe” districts for the party in power. Some states turned to independent redistricting commissions, to limit the role of elected officials and to restore public trust in the system. Delegates to the 2002 LWVMD Council adopted an emergency study of the redistricting process in anticipation of action by the General Assembly.
Although the problem in the 1960s was no action to redistrict to reflect population changes over a number of years (a problem remedied by the 1979 Constitutional requirement that Maryland draw new districts after the decennial census), a new problem arose in Texas in the early 1990s. The Texas legislature redistricted, then did it again two years later when the party in power changed.
- Support for a redistricting study commission. (2005-06 – not achieved)
- Supported three bills which would change the redistricting process to be more in line with LWVMD positions (2006 – not achieved)