A new ally against gerrymandering?
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.