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                                          Senator Bob Cassilly

                                                    District 34, Harford County

Fair Redistricting

Originally published on February 4, 2016

Under existing law, entrenched politicians in Annapolis are in charge of redrawing the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts after every 10-year census. This means politicians can engage in “gerrymandering,” or drawing ridiculously shaped districts clearly designed to break up large blocks of voters to dilute their vote. We see this in Harford County: our most conservative communities are thrown into a congressional district that spans from western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. The rest of Harford County falls into an oddly shaped district that also includes bits and pieces of Baltimore City, and Howard, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel counties. Unfortunately, this process of gerrymandering has been used very successfully throughout our State to shift the balance of political power in national and state elections to favor the old guard’s handpicked politicians.

Governor Hogan’s constitutional amendment [
2016 SB 380/HB 458] would give the power to redistrict to a nonpartisan panel, not entrenched politicians, a process already in place in a number of states. The nonpartisan panel would be assigned to draw districts with equal population, compact boundaries, and with respect for existing geographic boundaries

Passing redistricting reform will require facing down the political establishment in Annapolis, which depends on gerrymandering to stay in power. I am confident that the time is right for this change, because Marylanders of all political persuasions are fed up with the current system. This includes Republicans, who are currently relegated to just one of our state’s eight congressional districts, and moderate Democrats. It also includes African-Americans and Hispanics, who are underrepresented in the current system. Ultimately, however, redistricting reform is not about gaining an advantage for one particular party or ethnic group. It is about upholding the basic principles of our democratic government – fair elections that make our leaders accountable to the people.