Sometimes It Takes a Mom
By Martha Schaerr Candidate for State Delegate, District 19
In raising seven children, I’ve thought about principles and have created rules that Annapolis needs to apply to make government work better for everyone. I’m running to help Annapolis—and especially Governor Hogan—move Maryland in that direction.
One of these principles is fairness. Our family rule that “the person who cuts the pie gets the last piece” prompted very careful cutting and equal-sized pieces. In Annapolis, however, a few pie-eaters cut and choose their pieces first.
Consider legislative boundaries: Our decades-old law states that the governor’s office draws federal and state election districts, and the state legislature approves (or disapproves) his plan. But a few political bosses have enjoyed drawing maps to keep their seats and get their friends elected. The manipulated boundaries are obvious by merely looking at the map and have given Maryland the dubious title as the most gerrymandered state in the country.
For example, the map shows how Congressional District 6 stretches from Maryland’s rural western border to Bethesda in a narrow strip that eliminates the huge northwestern (rural) areas from the district. (This district gets the most attention because it was re-drawn recently to replace a Republican congressman with a Democrat.)
While the congressional districts get national attention, our state legislative districts are similarly manipulated. The northern rural sections of Montgomery County are broken up and combined with the more urban DC suburbs. Rural areas could still have a voice if the legislative districts were divided into subdistricts as is done in other parts of the state.
What you can’t see by just looking at the map is that the law also allows some districts to have 10% fewer voters than others. That gives party bosses enormous and unwarranted power: For example, while considering a law favored by Governor O’Malley about 10 years ago, some state legislators said they were afraid that if they didn’t vote with him, he would re-draw the boundaries of their districts to oust them.
I think Governor Hogan is right in seeking to eliminate such gamesmanship, and I’m running (in part) to vote for his plan. As the governor says, election districts should be drawn by a non-partisan commission. And they should be based on transparent mathematical formulas. The districts should be compact and contiguous, and they should represent virtually equal numbers of people.
Unfortunately, Governor Hogan’s plan has been rejected by the legislature multiple times because political bosses don’t want to give up their power. Yes, last year they passed a law that would fix Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional districts if five other states would do the same. But their law was silent on manipulating districts within the states. And their effort to tie their plan to other states was silly: Your mom’s rule was not that you needed to do the right thing only when your friends also agreed to do it.
Sometimes it takes a mom.