Single-member Districts

Readers write

July 07, 1991

From: John Leopold

Former member

Maryland General Assembly

Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a tragically misguided decision that has given protection to the polluting effect of money in election campaigns. The court ruled that federal statutory ceilings on campaigns violated the First Amendment's guarantee of free expression. It was a victory for concentrated wealth and the drowning of the voices of individual citizens in election campaigns.

The Supreme Court ruling made it clear that a state legislature cannot place statutory limits on campaign spending unless those limits are tied to public financing of state election campaigns. As a practical matter, public financing of state election campaigns is not a realistic solution, given its high price tag and lack of legislative support.

There is a solution, however, that involves no increase in state spending, significantly reduces the influence of money in political campaigns and offers political opportunity for the less affluent in our communities. That solution is single-member districts in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Five years ago, I introduced legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to require single-member legislative districts for the House of Delegates in the 1994 election and thereafter. The bill died in committee.

All of Maryland's 47 state senators today represent single-member districts, and of the 141 members of the House of Delegates, 14 represent single member districts and 8 represent two-member districts. These 47 senators and 14 single-member district delegates are, in my opinion, some of the happiest people in Annapolis. One of the reasons they're happy is that they don't have to worry about intra-district rivalryand competition. While rarely discussed, this rivalry is sometimes an impediment to constructive legislative action.

An additional benefit of single-member districts is their capacity to forestall the dilution of the voting strength of minorities. The Black Political Forum underscored this point recently in its public hearing testimony before the County Charter Revision Commission and the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee.

Another advantage for single-member district legislators is their ability to focus their attention and energy on a smaller number of constituents. Obviously, when this happens, the constituents are the winners. Many citizens living in multimemberdistricts have a hard time keeping track of what one of their three delegates are doing, let alone all three. In a single-member district, that problem does not exist. A legislator cannot hide from direct responsibility in a single-member district. There is direct and strictaccountability between a citizen and his or her elected representative.


From: Marc Jartman


Mr. (Robert) Duckworth's letter published on June 9th criticizes Representative Tom McMillen for supporting his party's leadership in the annual defense budget debate. (One would hardly expect him to support Mr.Duckworth's.) As we have seen in the past, the final defense budget will again likely be the result of many compromises worked out by theHouse, Senate and the administration.

What Tom McMillen's actionsdo indicate is that he knows how the system works. It has been my observation that he has developed an effective network in Congress which he readily uses to support the interests of his constituents involved in providing support to the nation's defense.

Representative McMillen has not only worked hard to save Maryland-based programs that have been in jeopardy but he has also hosted meetings in the Districtto give local defense contractors an opportunity to discuss opportunities and problems related to defense programs.

At one of these meetings which I attended, Representative Les Aspin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was the guest speaker. It was clear from the ensuing discussions that Mr. McMillen had developed an excellent relationship with Chairman Aspin which could be used to benefit hisconstituents in the 4th District.

We should also note that Tom McMillen has the courage to differ from the majority of his party when he feels it is appropriate, as he did when he supported the president's use of force in the Persian Gulf last January.

Let's give Tom McMillen the high marks he is due for supporting his constituents.


From: Robert L. Miller


Once again, households in the 4th Congressional District received another addition of Congressman Tom McMillen's so-called "Washington Report." Mailed at taxpayer expense, this shameful piece of self-advertising purports to let constituents know what great feats McMillen has accomplished in Washington over the last few months.

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