Monday, July 18, 2011

Maryland GOP Redistricting Map Receives More Attention

Last week, we highlighted the new redistricting map from the Maryland GOP.  While many in the media scoff at the notion that Republicans are relevant enough to get a seat at the table, especially when their proposal would net more Republican seats, they miss one major point.  The GOP map is the only one that respects the geographical boundaries of natural communities, counties, and demographic orientations.

Proposed 2012 map from GOP
Today, St. Mary's College political science professor Todd Eberly penned a great opinion piece in the Washington Post endorsing the Republican map.  He offers one of the most compelling arguments against the egregious gerrymandering of Maryland congressional districts at the hands of the state's Democrats.  He also provides a solid historical background of the congressional districts.

"It is important to consider how Maryland’s bizarre congressional districts came into existence. Before the 2001 redistricting, the state’s congressional delegation included four Democrats and four Republicans. That split was unacceptable to Glendening and state Democratic leaders, given their party’s sizable registration advantage, so they drew lines to dilute Republican counties and expand the reach of Democratic strongholds.
The goal was clear — elect more Democrats — and it was met. But there was a cost. Rather than respecting political diversity and natural community boundaries, districts were designed solely to maximize Democratic influence."[...]

"Meanwhile, state Republicans have proposed a map with compact districts that treat the borders of counties and communities with respect. Only Baltimore County would occupy more than two districts. A badly needed Baltimore City district (a new District 7) would be created by adding a sliver of Baltimore County’s population to the city’s 631,000 residents. Harford would occupy one district. Anne Arundel would be in two districts not four. Montgomery and Prince George’s would each be included in two districts — the minimum possible given their large populations."

Please read the full article here.

As Professor Eberly notes, instead of being satisfied with their 6-2 grossly gerrymandered majority, Governor O'Malley is seeking to further splice up the map by breaking up the 6th district in western Maryland, in the hope that it will become a swing district.  It's interesting to note that this is a radical departure from their original plan to go after Andy Harris in the 1st district.  I think it became clear to them that Harris has a lock on the seat, and the only way to dislodge him would be by means of an indefensible map that would be voided in court.  After all, the 1st district is mainly confined to a peninsula.  O'Malley figures that Congressman Bartlett will retire soon, providing Democrats with a more viable opportunity to pick up the 6th district.

The most insidious part of the Democrat gerrymander is the current and proposed map of Baltimore City and its suburbs.  Everyone agrees that the most natural, well-defined geographical and demographic boundary in the state is the city of Baltimore.  Additionally, Baltimore City only has 630,000 people, well below the approximate 720,000 threshold for a congressional district.  As such, it is a no-brainer that the entirety of Baltimore City should be confined to one district (plus an additional few communities from Baltimore County).  There is no reason to divide up the city, being that it lacks the requisite population for even one district.  Yet, Democrats have divided up the Democrat voters into 3 districts so they can spread the wealth of reliable votes and ensure multiple safe districts for themselves.  Baltimore County is currently divided between 5 districts!
Current map of 3rd district

Maryland's 3rd district has become the poster boy for gerrymandering and is noted by political handicappers as perhaps the most ridiculous district in the country.

Maryland's redistricting will invariably wind up in court before the 2012 primaries.  If the judges have any intellectual honesty, they will determine the districts based upon prudent and natural boundaries, instead of which party is more likely to benefit from the proposal.

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