Brian Griffiths Testimony as prepared for the Governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission
My name is Brian Griffiths. I am the editor-in-chief of RedMaryland.com and a former Chairman of the Maryland Young Republicans. I want to thank the Members of the Commission for their hard work on this topic that is important to all Marylanders.
Redistricting is not a new challenge for our state, and our Congressional lines have often by drawn in odd ways. When I first began voting, I was a resident of the 3rd Congressional District. My polling place, barely a mile away, was located in the 1st Congressional District. And I had to drive through a portion of the 2nd Congressional District to get from my home to the polling place.
Four years ago, I testified before the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee. At the time, I told the Committee, and that they were appointed by Governor O’Malley to do little more than uphold the status quo. And they we very successful at that. Thanks to the work of the Committee and the recommendations made to Governor O’Malley, Maryland is the home to the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the country.
This is hardly a badge of honor. What it is, however, is an indictment of our current redistricting process. The Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee appointees were two Democrats and a Republican closely aligned with the sitting Governor. This was hardly a Committee designed to challenge the status quo or to challenge the road map set forth by the sitting Governor and his administration. And it shows. The Congressional Redistricting map approved by the Committee, introduced by the Governor, and passed by the General Assembly constitute some of the most gerrymandered, contorted, and absurd Congressional lines in the history of our country. These lines were not created in a manner to keep like-minded communities together. These lines were not created to give us districts that were as compact as they possibly could be. No, these districts were created solely for partisan gain and to maximize representation of the majority party. There is no other logical explanation for districts to be drawn in this way.
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Sadly, it is not only Congressional districts which are affected. Our Legislative redistricting process was also the product of crass political maneuvering to benefit one party of the other. What’s truly sad is the way that Governor O’Malley and his hand-selected Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee manipulated the districts toward that end. Districts varied widely in their population, with some districts several thousand voters larger than others, in order to maximize majority party representation. Existing districts were split into subdistricts in order to create more winnable districts for the majority party. And once again, it was decided that some districts would have 1, 2, or 3 Delegates within their borders depending on the politics of the matter.
The issue of subsdistricts is one that deserves close attention. As a resident of District 31, for my entirely life I was represented by three members in the House of Delegates. The current redistricting plan, however, separated District 31 in to 31A and 31B. I now live in a two-member subdistrict, meaning the Committee stripped me of one of my elected representatives in the House of Delegates. All across the state, Marylanders have varying amounts of representation depending on where they live. That is unfair, and that is wrong.
My recommendations to fix the problems with redistricting are simple:
- Create an independent redistricting commission, comprised of five-members; two each appointed by the Chair of the two largest political parties, and a fifth member, who shall be jointly appointed by the first four members, and will serve as chairman of the commission. The Commission will be charged with creating both Congressional and Legislative Districts. The General Assembly would have the opportunity to vote on the proposed Districts, but would require a two-thirds vote to reject any proposed Districts.
- Require that Legislative Districts be of equal proportion to all other Legislative Districts; and,
- Require that all members of the House of Delegates be elected in single-member districts.
The President of the Senate said upon the appointment of this Commission that this was not the time for unilateral disarmament on redistricting. That we should not pass redistricting reform unless it was in concert with other states. He could not be more wrong. The time to act on redistricting reform is now, and Maryland has the opportunity to lead on this critical issue. We can’t wait for other states to act we we know the right thing to do.
I wish you all the best as you complete your work, and I eagerly look forward to your recommendations to the Governor.