Monday, October 3, 2011

Redistricting Commission Releases Proposed Map

Update: Want to learn more about gerrymandering and ask me questions? Come to St. mary's College on October 12 for a screening of the documentary "Gerrymandering."

The Redistricting Commission has officially released its map - as shown below, the proposed map is a variation of Option 1, as detailed in a prior post and in the Washington Post.

Democrats appear to have abandoned plans to target both the 1st and 6th congressional districts and have opted instead to target only the 6th and to make the 1st even more solidly Republican - a common tactic in Gerrymandering.

Prior to this map, Maryland was home to two of the most egregious examples of gerrymandering in the nation: the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts. If adopted, the newly drawn 4th, 7th and 8th will join their ranks. Though hard to imagine, the 3rd district has actually been made worse (which likely explains why it was the only district for which no close-up maps have been provided). The new 3rd district would travel through Anne Arundel county, along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay down to Gibson Island, then jump across the water to connect with Annapolis. I hope the district's representative, John Sarbanes, owns a boat.

With this map, Martin O'Malley has made Maryland the Texas of the Democratic party... but I doubt the Justice Department will consider any challenges to Maryland's map.

In a particularly amusing quote, Senate President and advisory committee member Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said that overall, "the change is quite modest." He added that "the map is much more aesthetically pleasing" and "we did the very best we could to try to reach a consensus."

By consensus he means the committee's four Democrats agreed to a map that further denies representation to the 40 percent of the state that routinely votes Republican. The token Republican on the committee voted against the map.

The Committee's presentation is full of often amusing attempts to explain the districts. Note that district 2's scattershot design was simply intended to represent BRAC communities... and, apparanetly, Owings Mills and Randallstown on the western side of Baltimore... The newly drawn 6th congressional district is described as representing the growing population along the I-270 corridor - I'm certain the voters in rural Garrett county are happy to know that the are part of the I-270 corridor.

The committee attempted to present the new map as a vast improvement, but one need look no further than a close-up of how Baltimore City has been carved up to see that nothing was improved.

The committee could have done so much better. The best I can say is that it also could have done much worse. One can only hope that the members abandoned so-called "Option 2" plan, designed to produce a congressional delegation with eight Democrats and no Republicans, because they realized that it was simply too brazen and too insulting to the voters of the state.

So here's my take on the proposal: It's not as brazen and as insulting as it could have been, but it's still plenty of both.

Now can we please amend the state constitution and make this a nonpartisan process?