A new ally against ger­ry­man­der­ing?

Record Observer - - Opinion -

Gov. Larry Ho­gan likes to call Mary­land the most ger­ry­man­dered state in the coun­try. While we have not re­viewed the con­gres­sional dis­trict maps for the other 49 states, one look at Mary­land’s pretty much makes Ho­gan’s case.

The last time re­dis­trict­ing oc­curred in Mary­land was in 2011 un­der Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley. O’Mal­ley, a Demo­crat, termed out of of­fice in 2014. Repub­li­can Larry Ho­gan was elected. One of his cam­paign pledges was to end the state’s prac­tice of gerr yman­der­ing.

Ger­ry­man­der­ing is an old po­lit­i­cal term peo­ple love to use. It has a col­or­ful his­tory, stem­ming from an 1812 po­lit­i­cal car­toon in the Bos­ton Gazette show­ing Gov. Eldridge Gerry’s map for the Mas­sachusetts Sen­ate look­ing like de­monic sala­man­der — the “Gerry-mander.” The term stuck.

One look at Mary­land’s con­gres­sional map from 2011 clearly shows that rather than use pre-ex­ist­ing com­mu­ni­ties and other sen­si­ble geo­graphic bound­aries, O’Mal­ley squig­gled lines in the name of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency on the part of the Democrats.

Prior to the re­dis­trict­ing, Mary­land Repub­li­cans held two of the state’s eight con­gres­sional dis­tricts. O’Mal­ley’s plan took that down to one by join­ing the state’s ru­ral western coun­ties in a dis­trict with Wash­ing­ton, D.C., sub­urbs.

O’Mal­ley then strength­ened the Repub­li­cans’ hold on 1st Dis­trict, com­pris­ing the en­tirety of the Eastern Shore, by ex­tend­ing it through Har­ford and Bal­ti­more coun­ties. What ap­pears in­ter­est­ing about the 1st Dis­trict is that O’Mal­ley ap­pears to have made it more dif­fi­cult for some­one ac­tu­ally from the Shore to get elected or, for the Democrats, through the pri­maries.

As part of his leg­isla­tive pack­age in this year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion, Ho­gan is re­new­ing his ef­forts to end ger­ry­man­der­ing through the es­tab­lish­ment of a bi­par­ti­san re­dis­trict­ing process. Ho­gan has pro­posed the Re­dis­trict­ing Re­form Act of 2017.

Ho­gan ap­pears to have a sur­prise sup­porter in his ef­forts to end ger­ry­man­der­ing — O’Mal­ley.

“We must, on a state by state ba­sis, push for an end to ger­ry­man­dered Con­gres­sional dis­tricts,” reads a copy of a speech O’Mal­ley gave last month at the Bos­ton Col­lege School of Law.

It is an in­ter­est­ing about-face from the man who ap­proved the map for the 3rd Dis­trict, which starts in Annapolis, wraps around Sev­erna Park on its way to Glen Burnie, slides un­der Fort Meade on its way to Lau­rel and out to Ol­ney be­fore shoot­ing a nar­row path back up to in­clude a sliver of Bal­ti­more as it heads out west again to Tow­son. It is one sneaky snake of a dis­trict.

It is good to see O’Mal­ley rec­og­niz­ing the er­rors of his ger­ry­man­der­ing ways. We hope he will give his Bos­ton Col­lege speech, posted on the blog site Medium, here in Mary­land, be­fore Gen­eral Assem­bly com­mit­tees, in an ef­fort to move for­ward a bi­par­ti­san re­dis­trict­ing process.

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