Maryland redistribution battle reflects national debate – InsideSources
In the deep blue surroundings of Maryland, Democrats like Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative John Sarbanes are strong supporters of HR1, the “We, the People Act.”
âAmericans across the country have been forced to overcome widespread voter suppression, gerrymandering and a torrent of special interest black money just to exercise their vote and voice in our democracy,â Sarbanes said on his website. . “It shouldn’t be like that.”
And yet, when it comes to extreme gerrymandering, that’s exactly how it’s going to be, Republicans say. In fact, some of the same Maryland Democrats who support HR1 support a congressional redistribution plan that would deny Republicans any representation in the federal delegation.
âGerrymandering is the way of life in Maryland,â GOP State Senator Bryan Simonaire told InsideSources. âIt is inevitable that the Congress cards will be gerrymandered. The only question is whether the Democrats are happy with 7 of the 8 seats or will they try to get the 8 seats. “
Maryland, along with other Democratic-controlled states like New York and Illinois, is emerging as a poster for partisan gerrymandering, even at a time when Democrats are proposing federal legislation to end it.
Debating over how to draw neighborhoods is nothing new. The phrase “gerrymander” dates back to 1812 and the distorted and hyper partisan redistribution proposed by Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced with a hard “g”). But Maryland may be approaching an extreme that could make cynics blush.
In 2000, like today, there were eight seats in the House of Representatives in Maryland. They were split equally between Republicans and Democrats. In 2002, Democrats who controlled the legislature and governor’s residence openly admitted their goal was to shift the balance to six Democrats and two Republicans.
Now Democrats would be considering cards that would guarantee virtually no Republican in the state delegation.
Similar extremes are said to be under consideration in New York, where a current 19 Democrats / 8 Republicans split could turn into a 23 Democrats / 3 GOP delegation. (New York loses one seat due to the most recent census.)
In Oregon, Republicans are pursuing a new map to add the state’s sixth congressional district, designed to ensure Democrats control five. “This 83% ratio far exceeds the 56% share of votes cast by Oregonians for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election,” reports The Oregonian.
Nationally, Democrats say they support citizens’ commissions to fight gerrymandering, like the one put in place by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
âGovernor Hogan campaigned against gerrymandering,â said Walter Olson, Republican co-chair of the state Citizen Redistricting Commission. It is made up of three Republicans, three Democrats and three Independents. âThe idea for our commission was to draw undrawn cards to gain an advantage. The process is structured as such to be neutral.
By offering cards, the Maryland commission is prohibited from favoring parties or politicians, and they are not permitted to consider party registration numbers or the location of political holders.
But that point is moot because the legislature, which has a Democratic qualified majority, has appointed its own committee and, ultimately, is free to ignore any recommendations and adopt a partisan card and gerrymander as it does. did in each of the last two redistributions.
Neuroscience professor Samuel Wang heads the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, an effort to understand the real implications of gerrymandering through analysis and interpretation of available data. âWe translate mathematics into law and law into mathematics,â reads the project’s website.
The project team found a good place for gerrymandering when it comes to cards. Politicians want to strengthen their support in neighborhoods without overloading partisan lines.
âIt seems what the politicians are doing is if they can get over 60%, this district is never going to tip over,â said Adam Podowitz-Thomas, senior legal strategist for the project. âThey’re asking computers to draw 60 to 70 percent lines inside their party lines. They draw lines to serve both immediate and long term interests [partisan] interests.”
Yet some argue that there is value in public commissions even if their recommendations are ignored because they make the process public. Olson said that previously the process tended to be somewhat secretive, carried out largely by political insiders.
âThe results were just announced,â he said.
Maryland State Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson (D) declined to respond to requests for comment.
Simonaire would also like to see changes, but says he has little hope the end result will be anything other than a partisan map drawn by Democrats.
âPolitical leaders know what is right for the people,â Simonaire wrote. “But the question remains whether they will have the political courage to do so.”