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Gerrymandering In Maryland


Gerrymandering is in the news due to a ruling by federal judges in North Carolina, who said the congressional map there is unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn district lines to their own advantage. But redistricting rivals out of office isn't just the province of Republicans. In Maryland, the story is about Democrats who overwhelmingly represent the state in Annapolis and in Congress. Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is pushing for redistricting. Democrats like my guest, state Delegate Kirill Reznik, have not supported his proposals to change the process. Welcome to the program.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: You introduced your own proposal based on an idea that you've called unilateral disarmament. Can you explain that? And I'm assuming it doesn't have anything to do with guns.

REZNIK: No, absolutely not. Democrats have used the term unilateral disarmament when it comes to redistricting a number of times. It seems more often than not that it's Democrats taking the mantle of reform and Republicans not following suit. And so I have proposed a bill - and I will be proposing it again this year - for a two-state compact between us and Virginia.

Maryland does have some issues with redistricting that we do need to solve, and we do want to put it to a truly independent commission to be able to draw those lines. But Virginia has the same problems in the opposite direction. And I think if you look across the map, I think there are more states that have a Republican redistricting problem than a Democratic one. And so my bill, in addition to creating an independent commission, also requires that before we implement, Virginia does, as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So basically, everyone has to drop their arms at the same time. I want to get to the crux of the matter, though. Let's talk about Maryland. Democrats have a huge advantage in the state, and they hold seven of the state's eight seats in Congress. Is that good for the people of your state? Can it really show their will?

REZNIK: You know, the issue that I often bring up when people ask me that question is that the vote of a congressman, regardless of where they are from, affects Maryland equally. So the vote of a Pennsylvania congressman, a Texas congressman, California congressman has the same weight that the vote for a Maryland congressman has. And so when you look at the problems that Congress have, the problems of inability to work together, the problem of overstretching their political will and passing bills like this current tax plan that the Republicans just passed that hurts Marylanders disproportionately, the problem are not Maryland congressmen. Seven of the eight Maryland congressmen voted against that tax plan that directly hurts Maryland.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But if the problem isn't Maryland congressmen, you know, studies have shown that redistricting would probably only result in the party giving up one congressional seat. Why is that not worth it, you know, in the greater cause of trying to make these elections fair?

REZNIK: If I had any confidence that another state would follow suit, I would agree with you. But we have watched as, really, only two states in the nation have done truly independent congressional redistricting. Neither of them are what I would call red states. And one of them is California, the state with the largest number of congressional seats in the country. And even though California moved forward with their independent redistricting, not one Republican state followed suit. So if what we're trying to do is have more Republicans in Congress, then I would say, yes, we back Governor Hogan's plan and just change it in Maryland.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But this sounds a little bit like a playground argument. Well, if they're not going to do it, I'm not going to do it, either, regardless of what may be right.

REZNIK: Well, that's what my bill solves. It allows for two states to do it simultaneously. And hopefully, that then moves a process forward that other states can then join.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is there buy-in from Virginia?

REZNIK: My understanding is that there are a number of legislators in Virginia who are interested in a plan like this. I am working with Common Cause Maryland, League of Women Voters and other groups who are interested in my plan and who are working with counterparts in Virginia, as well. I'm actually very hopeful that we can do something between Maryland and Virginia.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Maryland Delegate Kirill Reznik, thank you so much.

REZNIK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.