This Week’s Headlines
Md. gerrymandering is an artform (Editorial)
(Aug. 18, 2015) Elbridge Gerry was a delegate to the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence although he was initially opposed to the Constitution.
But his notoriety extends beyond that.
In 1810, he was elected governor of Massachusetts and, in that post, signed into law election districts drawn to favor his party.
One district looked like a salamander. Thus the term “gerrymander” was born.
The term is back in the headlines.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has announced his intention to appoint a study commission to look at options for redistricting reform in Maryland.
This action follows up on his statement in February’s State of the State address, in which he expressed his support for an independent commission to redraw congressional and legislative district lines.
Among those immediately hailing the action was Common Cause Maryland.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, eexecutive director of Common Cause Maryland, said “Voters are ready for the return of common sense rules to our political system. Maryland’s current districts defy that common sense — they sprawl across the state, slicing and dicing communities and neighborhoods, discouraging civic engagement in our democracy. This commission is the first step toward a more open, transparent process.”
Maryland has been described as the most gerrymandered state in the nation.
Its legislative districts, for example, appear as if you had laid a map of the state with the districts defined before a second grader with a box of crayons and told him or her to color at will.
The Eastern Shore is captured in eight legislative districts. They extend across the top of the Bay and drop down into Anne Arundel County. Congressionally, conservative-leaning Anne Arundel County has been chopped up into four of the state’s eight congressional districts, all represented by Democrats who live elsewhere.
As Hogan remarked, Anne Arundel “has been carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.”
The Eastern Shore congressional district, similar to its legislative gerrymandering, has been extended across the top of the Bay to capture more liberal-leaning voters in Baltimore and Carroll counties and to a lesser extent in Harford.
Since 1963, the Eastern Shore had been represented by seven congressmen. Only two have been Democrats.
Republican conservative governance is an integral element in the character of the Eastern Shore and contributed substantially to the election of Hogan.
He is changing the way the game is played. We wish him Godspeed.