The Governor and Reapportionment: Another Look

The Governor and Reapportionment: Another Look


  The Governor=s Redistricting Commission has performed as expected in its lay-out of Congressional districts. Fifteen years ago, four of Maryland=s eight congresspersons were Republicans: each and all persons of strikingly independent judgment and diverse views who punched well above their weight in the House. The purge of them continues.       


   However in the case of the legislature, there are constitutional constraints with real bite.


  The first of these is the requirement of due regard for local subdivisions, which gave rise to the invalidation of Governor Glendening=s reapportionment plan because it cut too many local boundaries. Indeed, that constitutional requirement may require, as to the House of Delegates, that county boundaries not be cut at all. When it was enacted, Maryland had an uninterrupted tradition of separate county representation which was not intended to be changed save to the extent that the federal constitution required it. In its decision in Hughes v. Maryland Committee, 241 Md. 471, 486-87 (1966) the Court of Appeals held that the federal constitution did not prohibit numerical disparities approaching  2 to 1 between largest and smallest districts, since most districts were near the mean and a small minority could not control the House of Delegates.@Of the 142 seats, 132 will be elected by populations with variances of less than 15% of the mathematical norm.@ While later cases applied more rigid standards, they are cast in doubt by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S.835(1983) sustaining disparities of up to 3.25 to one in order to accord each Wyoming county representation. Allowing each Maryland county a minimum of one delegate would result in a maximum disparity of only 2.5 to 1 and would not systematically over-represent rural counties, some of which would have the most populous districts.


The logic of James Madison, in providing for the allocation of members in legislatures according to the >method of equal proportions= is still sound:


  AThere seem to be two methods only by which the representation can be equalized from time to time. The first is to change the bounds of the counties, the second to change the number of representatives alloted to them respectively. As the former would not only be most troublesome and expensive, but would involve a variety of other local adjustments [local officers, etc.], the latter method is evidently the best.@[1]


The second requirement, that of compactness, also has teeth. It was expressly enforced by Judge Hall Hammond, the Special Master in Matter of Legislative Districting, 271 Md. 320 (1974), relying on two mathematical tests put forward in an affidavit submitted by a certain Professor Parris N. Glendening, whose words have hitherto been accepted as gospel by the O=Malley administration, which is honeycombed by his apostles.                                                                                                                                 












[1] Madison to John Brown, August 23,1785, in 1 Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (New York: R. Worthington, 1884), quoted in B. Janiskee, Local Government in Early America (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield,2011)

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