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Monday, October 10, 2011

In Maryland, the "Gorrell Map" Deserves Public Consideration

The Congressional Redistricting Plan of 2012 will be scheduled to be heard before the joint hearing of the Maryland General Assembly's Senate Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting and House Rules and Executive Nominations on Monday, October 17th at 1 pm. The public is welcome to testify. Though I have prepared a rough draft of a map, I have not prepared a precinct specific map that would be available for consideration and adoption.

Rather I am encouraging members of the Assembly and the public to give serious consideration to a map prepared by the only Maryland citizen (other than the commission members) to have attended every meeting of the Governors' Redistricting Advisory Commission. The man is Howard Gorrell. As reported by various news outlets:
Gorrell’s message from first to last was fairly simple: No gerrymandering. No drawing of lines for political gain.

Election districts should be compact, and they should follow geographic and natural boundaries, he maintained. Counties should be kept whole and not cut up. And when parts of other counties must be added to make the population equal, he proposed adding clusters of high schools and their feeder schools.

Under Gorrell’s proposal, the 1st Congressional District would include 10 counties from Worcester north to Harford, and adding the Hereford school district in Baltimore County. The 6th would head east from Garrett to Carroll, with three school clusters added from Montgomery County. The 2nd would include almost all of Baltimore County, and the 3rd would encompass the entire Baltimore City, plus clusters in the county.
Using a Census numbers, precinct-specific data, a calculator, and a magnifying glass Gorrell designed a new district map of Maryland that I believe truly represents the diversity of the state - his decision to rely on school district as the basic unit of "community" represents a true understanding of the building blocks of neighborhoods and common ground.

District-specific details for Gorrell's proposal are available at the following links:

Map:
http://www.mdp.state.md.us/PDF/Redistricting/3rdPartyPlan2010/map092611-CDHGorrel.pdf

Third Party Submission:
http://www.mdp.state.md.us/PDF/Redistricting/3rdPartyPlan2010/doc091911-CDGorrell-ProposalOfficial.pdf

A full-state map was not available, but below is quick snapshot of Gorrell's eight districts.


By now, it should be clear that there is a growing chorus of opposition to the Redistricting Commission's proposed map of Maryland - and the most vocal opposition is not coming from Republicans. As reported by the Washington Post, "Montgomery County Council Democrats find Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed gerrymandering of their home turf so outrageous that they are publicly coming out against it." The Post is even running a "Name that District" constest in honor of the ridiculous 3rd Congressional District. And Capital reporter Eric Hartley attempted to drive the 3rd district - only discover that you cannot - "When you design districts for politics, not because you're trying to include major population centers or be geographically consistent, this is what you're left with: a district that includes boarded-up rowhouses in south Baltimore and million-dollar mansions in Howard County."
The Gorrell map deserve to receive public consideration and I hope that it does. It's an impressive proposal and, quite frankly, puts the Redistricting Committee's proposal to shame (then again, spilling a bottle of ink on a map of Maryland is likely to produce a map better than the Commission's).

The Gorrell proposal differs from my own in many ways, but I think that he has captured Maryland just as well - whereas I tried to keep counties together at all costs, Gorrell opted to cross county lines when justified and necessary. His use of school districts was a great way to keep community connections intact even when crossing county lines.