Maryland’s new congressional district map stays in crosshairs -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated Oct. 16.

Some politicians in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties continue to struggle to get potential voters to take a look at the state’s new congressional district map.

The map in question was drawn by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Redistricting Advisory Committee and voted into place about a year ago during a special legislative session.

The map now is the subject of a question put on the Nov. 6 ballot by petition, and those opposing it say it’s an example of “the worst in 200 years of gerrymandering.”

Montgomery County Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg held a news conference Monday in Rockville to push for votes against the map, which appears as Question 5 on the Maryland ballot.

“This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to enact real redistricting reform,” said Andrews, who stood with more than 20 elected officials from Montgomery County, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park.

“All of us are here to urge voters to reject this gerrymander and repeal it.... We can see what happens when elected officials draw their own boundaries.”

On Tuesday, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) of Takoma Park added his voice to the dissent, calling on voters to reject the map.

“The map that resulted from the redistricting process has embarrassed our state, diminished public access to their elected representatives and further eroded public confidence in our political process,” Franchot said in a statement.

Andrews, Franchot and others pointed to the new 3rd Congressional District, which includes two branches from Olney and Brookeville in Montgomery County: one swoops down to Odenton and up to Glen Burnie, then follows the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis; the other takes in parts of Baltimore city and sweeps north to Towson and Owings Mills.

“How can anyone represent this district?” Andrews asked. “How can anyone remember the borders?”

Democratic precinct chairs from Montgomery County also were at the news conference.

Both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties’ Democratic Central Committees voted to take no position on the ballot question, while voicing support for other Democratic initiatives like same-sex marriage and the Dream Act.

One of the reasons they so vehemently oppose the map, said Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Dist. 18) of Chevy Chase, is that it dilutes the voting power of minorities by dividing up two districts that were once majority-minority and putting them into majority-white districts.

“We absolutely diluted the presence and the voting power and the ability of minorities to be represented at the congressional level,” said Gutierrez, pointing to the 3rd District, which went from 58 percent minority to 37 percent minority, and the 6th District, which went from 53 percent minority to 36 percent minority.

Although defeat of the ballot question won’t undo the results of the 2012 election, it would mean that the governor’s committee would have to put forward another map for the General Assembly to vote on, although there is no requirement that the map be significantly changed.

But getting voters to pay attention to the redrawn map is a hard sell, said Greg Rabidoux of Common Cause, a nonprofit lobbying organization for transparent government.

“It only happens every 10 years that we have a window to make changes,” he said. “By the time you get people up to speed, it’s done. And it’s a low-knowledge, low-profile process.”

hnunn@gazette.net