Outrageous Redistricting Plan

August 07, 1991

In attempting to ensure Rep. Tom McMillen's political survival and make life miserable for Maryland's three Republican representatives, the state's Democratic Party has thrown its weight behind an outrageous redistricting plan that is such a naked case of gerrymandering it doesn't stand a prayer of

passing judicial muster. It eviscerates Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties and cuts the Eastern Shore in half. This is a Rube Goldberg monstrosity that stands as a cynical insult to Maryland voters.

It is not surprising that the party's chairman, Nathan Landow, would try to draw redistricting maps to protect all five of Maryland's Democrats in the House. It is surprising, though, that Mr. Landow & Co. failed to gain approval from four of these Democrats before tracing the party's latest maps. Mr. McMillen, it appears, was the prime mover.

In protecting the Democratic incumbents, the Landow plan would chop up Baltimore County among five congressional districts. The county's main congressional conduit, Republican Helen Bentley, would share a district with fellow Republican Wayne Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore. Either the shore and Baltimore County would be left without its own voice in Congress.

Montgomery County would be sliced into four congressional districts; Howard and Anne Arundel counties among three districts. The boundary lines are so convoluted that most voters won't be able to name their congressional representative without a scorecard -- and a bizarre-looking map.

By far the most offensive juggling of boundaries comes in Mr. McMillen's proposed district. He would wind up with most of the Lower Eastern Shore, portions of Anne Arundel that are not linked by land, Calvert County in Southern Maryland and Dundalk and Essex in Baltimore County! He'd need a rowboat to visit constituents.

Apparently the Democratic Party ignored constitutional requirements for redrawing congressional lines as set down by the Supreme Court a quarter-century ago -- compactness, contiguousness and due regard to natural boundaries and to the boundaries of political subdivisions. The McMillen district alone defies each of these mandates. Most other districts are equally unconstitutional.

We urge the governor's redistricting commission, headed by former Judge Benjamin L. Brown, to disregard the Landow proposal. Even die-hard Democrats in the Maryland delegation say this plan is laughable. Seven of the eight representatives seem content with another map that more fairly subdivides the state and keeps most counties and regions intact. Skewering Republicans at the expense of voters and the constitution is unacceptable, even in an inherently political process such as redistricting.

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