- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he will try again for the fourth consecutive year to make congressional redistricting a nonpartisan process.

Hogan, a Republican, said he will submit legislation in the next session to create an independent commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Now, the governor and lawmakers craft them. Hogan has made the reform proposal in each of his three years as governor, but it has not advanced.

The governor said reforming the process for drawing the districts for members of Congress and the state legislature is widely supported, by citizens as well as interest groups that care about free and fair elections on both sides of the political aisle.

“The legislature refuses to take that up,” Hogan said at a news conference he called to discuss plans to expand on an initiative to boost job creation in the state. “I think that’s a mistake on their part to go against 90 percent of the people in the state.”

Democrats who control the Maryland General Assembly say reforms to the redistricting process should be undertaken at the federal level, or at least with a regional approach. This year, Maryland lawmakers passed a redistricting bill to put the process in the hands of an independent board, if five other states in the region also agreed to the changes.

But Hogan vetoed the measure, saying it was “a political ploy” to block real reform.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court added a dispute over Maryland’s congressional map to its consideration of partisan gerrymandering. On Friday, justices agreed to hear an appeal from Republican voters who complained that majority Democrats unfairly drew one of the state’s eight congressional districts to favor their party. The high court already is weighing a statewide challenge to legislative districts in Wisconsin.

Asked what the state would be prepared to do if the high court strikes down the state’s congressional map, Hogan said, “We’ll have to wait and see what the decision is.”

“If they throw out the existing districts, we’ll have to come up with new districts, and it seems like it will create a big mess for people that are sitting in those districts, but we’ll find a way to make it work before the election,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll make those decisions quickly.”

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland 2-1. Both of the state’s U.S. senators are Democrats. Maryland has seven Democrats and one Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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