Justin M. Kiska
(6/2016) Have you ever looked at the Maryland congressional districts, or those of the General Assembly? I donít mean looking on your voter registration card or typing in your address on the Board of Electionís website to see which district you are in. I literally mean, have you ever looked at a map of the election districts? Did you ever wonder why they look like strange
ameba-like creatures devouring the state?
There was a time, not all that long ago, that the county lines had a lot to do with the district boundaries. Population, naturally, plays a part as well, and districts CANNOT be draw along racial or ethnic lines. But there is nothing that says they cannot be drawn along political ones. In fact, thatís pretty much how every state determines election districts. Whichever
party is in control of the state capital wins the prize. They get to draw the election map in a way to try and help them remain in power for as long as possible.
Itís been going on for as long as anyone can remember.
In Maryland, with the majority of both the State Senate and House of Delegates firmly under the control of the Democrats, itís no surprise that the districts would tent to favor Democratic candidates. Iím not saying if the Republicans were in power they would do any different. But during the last redistricting, under former Governor Martin OíMalley, the Democrats didnít
even try and hide the fact they were gerrymandering the election districts. Everyone knows itís done, but you shouldnít look like thatís what youíre doing. It seems though, that the governor and Democratic powers that be in Annapolis just didnít care.
That is why today Frederick County has been divided up in the most ridiculous fashion, allowing the same congressperson who represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park to represent Walkersville and Emmitsburg, while allowing the same congressperson who represents Gaithersburg and Germantown to represent Hagerstown and Cumberland. When the lines were drawn the last time
around, the Democrats wanted to make sure this area was no longer represented by a Republican in Congress. Thatís exactly what happened.
Again, thatís not to say that Republican controlled legislatures around the country havenít done the same thing to Democrats.
Let me ask the question: Is this right?
I hope the majority of people would say itís not. This is just one of the many, many, many reasons our country is being torn apart by politics. Itís become a game of one-upmanship. How is this good for anyone?
The answer . . . it isnít.
Earlier this year, Governor Hogan, our stateís extremely popular chief executive, proposed the idea of allowing a non-partisan commission to draw the election districts. Talk about a novel idea. The fact is, out of the fifty states, only six use a non-partisan group to create their election maps. The rest do it the old fashioned way, gerrymandering.
When the governor proposed the idea of a non-partisan board, it was very clear, very quickly that the residents of Maryland supported the idea. The leaders in Annapolis, specifically Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller, started out as hesitant of the idea before completely opposing it. They donít want to give up valuable Democratic congressional seats. Someone
suggested that Maryland should reform the redistricting system if a Republican leaning state did the same, thereby basically canceling each other out.
This is how our elected leaders are thinking.
There was also the idea of a regional plan for redistricting so Maryland wouldnít be alone in doing so. Why canít Maryland take the lead on this? Why do the Democrats just want to go along if others do?
The cry weíre hearing more and more from both sides is that the people want to have their say. So why not let them. Allow a non-partisan committee to draw the lines, not starting out by giving the advantage to a Democrat or a Republican, and let the best person win. Shouldnít we want to have elected officials that can bring people from all sides together? Doesnít that make
them the best for the job?
I applaud Governor Hogan for trying to take the lead on this and I hope he continues to fight for redistricting reform. It may not sound like the "sexiest" issue to talk about, but it is one that is more important than most people realize.
Read other articles by Justin Kiska