Gerrymandered Maryland Needs Redistricting
By Richard Fidler
We all know that numerous groups have rated Maryland the most gerrymandered state in the nation, and with good reason. Most of the state’s 8 U.S. congressional districts look worse than ink blots.
And if you look at other information about our congressional districts, you’ll discover something else quite interesting: Based on the 2010 Census, Districts 1-7 have populations of exactly 721,529 residents while District 8 has 721,528. The Supreme Court ruled in its 1964 Reynolds v. Sims decision that voting districts must contain very close to the same number of people. But notice it didn’t say exactly the same number; it is likely that something like a 10% deviation from the average would pass muster.
So why did Annapolis draw the districts with such precision? My guess is that they wanted to make 100% certain that it could withstand any legal challenge, claiming “unreasonable deviation” from the average.
But what it does result in is descriptions like this one for the 8th Congressional District: “Election District 5, precincts 1, 5 (part), 6 (part), 7 (part), 8, 9, 10 (part), 11, 13 (part), 14 (part), 16, 22.” The 8th District also includes parts of Frederick and Carroll Counties, which are likewise burdened with ridiculous descriptions. Is it any wonder citizens lose faith in their representatives?
The basic geographic elements in elections are the precincts, which are then gathered into election districts. Montgomery County has 13 election districts, of which three have undivided precincts, while seven have precincts spreading over two congressional districts and three have precincts spread over three congressional districts.
Throw in Maryland state legislative districts, School Board Districts and County Council and you have a real mess. By having overlapping precincts and districts of such variety, the possibility for the Board of Elections to make mistakes increases.
Governor Hogan has set up a redistricting commission to examine the problem, issue a report and provide legislative language for enacting their recommendations. The commission is made up of seven Marylanders who represent a wide variety of interests in the state, such as the president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a former elected state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, a member of the board of directors of Common Cause Maryland, the president of the Baltimore NAACP, an administrator for the League of Women Voters of Maryland and a Bethesda business owner.
Who is not supportive of this commission? The Democratic President of the Maryland Senate, the Democratic Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and the Democratic Representative from Maryland’s 8th Congressional district.
We hope the governor’s new redistricting commission will provide recommendations to make representative government in Maryland truly representative.