Every ten years, the law requires that congressional and state legislative districts be redrawn to accommodate population shifts reflected in the U.S. Census. The redrawing of districts has become a tool in the hands of governors to make congressional and legislative seats safe for favored incumbents and long odds for the re-election of those incumbents who are not favored. Ten years ago, the redrawing of state legislative districts was so offensively gerrymandered that the Court of Appeals rejected it. The Court redrew the map, which pleased very few of the powerful Glendenning Administration.
This year, the new congressional district map will appear on the November ballot, as Question 5, for the approval of Maryland voters. The new map is a monstrous thing that combines the worst in gerrymandered contortions. Having voted against this in the Senate chamber, I intend to vote against it at the voting booth, by voting AGAINST Question 5. I urge you to do the same.
One of the obvious goals of the O’Malley Administration was to draw a district that would enable a Montgomery County Democrat to defeat Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett of Western Maryland. The administration’s hope was to pack Republicans into one Congressional district, leaving the remainder of Maryland’s Congressional delegation to Democratic control.
The new congressional District 3 lumps together the far-flung communities of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, Towson in Baltimore County, and Silver Spring in Montgomery County, as well as Baltimore City. Excluded from District 3 are the communities that tie these areas together. In fixing the map to achieve their goals, District 4 and District 8, previously suburban Washington districts, lost large numbers of constituents in Montgomery and Prince George’s County. Instead, the map’s drawers included large numbers of constituents from other areas of the state. Now, Marylanders from Anne Arundel, Frederick and Carroll Counties are in the new Districts 4 and 8. The voting power of the Eastern Shore’s 1st Congressional District has been much more diluted by the inclusion of a larger number of constituents from Baltimore, Harford, and Carroll Counties. However, I suppose we should be grateful that the O’Malley map architects left one majority republican district in the state, instead of the two republican districts it contained for decades.
Indeed, the map is a convoluted mess. Communities distant from each other with little in common have been stitched together, while other homogenous communities have been ripped apart. The shamefully political map has drawn the opposition of both Democrat and Republican elected congressional office holders, the state Comptroller, as well as bipartisan representatives in the Maryland General Assembly. Also opposing the new congressional map are the League of Women Voters, Common Cause of Maryland, civil rights groups, the majority of the Montgomery County Council and editorial boards of statewide newspapers. The principle of congressional districts peopled by constituents who share common needs, goals, problems and viewpoints has been violated beyond belief. I am hopeful that on November 6, Maryland voters will vote AGAINST Question 5 and restore much-needed sanity and fairness to the state’s newly drawn congressional districts.
Senator EJ Pipkin