BALTIMORE, Feb. 22 – Legislators from three states unveiled their innovative plan for congressional redistricting reform today in Baltimore. Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia have been cited as examples of partisan gerrymandering that lets politicians pick their voters.
Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, said: "What's new here is that we have legislators from three neighboring states working together on fair redistricting. Republicans have led the complaints about Maryland, and Democrats have led the complaints about Pennsylvania and Virginia, but voters in these states, regardless of party, lose under the current system. By working together, both parties and residents of all three states gain from fairer districts and a restoration of competition and accountability. This regional initiative could also serve as a model for other states around the country."
Maryland Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, said: "What we’re trying to do here is unprecedented and sends a strong message about the nature of our unfair and biased redistricting processes. I am proud to have partnered with Delegate Mark Sickles of Virginia and Representative Brian Sims of Pennsylvania to answer the calls of constituents to reform our gerrymandered and broken redistricting systems. To truly provide for fair and free elections for all, redistricting must be nonpartisan and professional. Our regional partnership and the bills we have each introduced in our respective legislatures will do just that."
Virginia Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, said: "I have served on the House Privileges and Elections Committee now for 13 sessions, serving through one redistricting cycle. Reapportionment by those of us who serve is not pretty. Multiple court cases have demonstrated that our current process has deliberately depressed the voices of many of our citizens, robbing them of the ability to choose their own representatives. It has also played havoc by dividing communities of interest unnecessarily while making a mockery of compactness and contiguity. Our joint effort represents an attempt to reduce the role of politics in redistricting. Our plan is only the first step toward long-term reform. It illustrates the potential for a fair and balanced process to all political parties -- and more importantly to every voter."
The respective bills are Maryland HB 467, Virginia HJ 205 and pending Pennsylvania legislation Sims plans to introduce soon. Sims and Sickles serve in the minority in their chambers, while Reznik serves in the majority, but they are hopeful their cross-state partnership will help in advancing the legislation. Reznik's bill is scheduled to have a hearing Feb. 29.
The legislators also encouraged the media and voters to ask about gerrymandering in the lead-up to the March 1 Virginia primary and the April 26 Pennsylvania and Maryland primaries.