Reasonable Redistricting Map

October 02, 1991

Finally, House leaders have agreed on a new map to re-arrange Maryland's congressional districts that respects political and geographic boundaries and keeps communities with common interests intact. It is a proposal Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller should embrace.

The latest map is a modified version of SB14, which was approved Monday by the state Senate. With one exception, the new compromise gives Marylanders compact and contiguous districts.

Instead of hacking Baltimore County into five segments, the new proposal leaves the county in only three districts. Howard County would be split only among two districts, with Columbia and Ellicott City remaining whole. And Montgomery County, which was earmarked for a three-way or four-way split, now would be divided in two parts.

Only in Anne Arundel County does this compromise fall short. That county would be divided among three districts. Yet the alternative -- badly splintering all other jurisdictions in the Baltimore region -- is unacceptable. Moreover, Arundel's predicament is no worse than Baltimore County's.

On the plus side, the compromise creates a truly metropolitan district that takes in northern Arundel, eastern Howard, dense portions of Baltimore County and a large city core. It also retains a Baltimore County-Harford County district.

Importantly, the plan keeps the entire Eastern Shore in one district, linking it to compatible segments of Arundel that share a deep concern for the Chesapeake Bay at its doorstep. Additionally, the map retains a compact Western Maryland district.

Everyone has to make some sacrifices under this proposal. Yet Mr. Miller, who so earnestly backed SB14 that forms the basis for the current House plan, now is adamantly opposing the House revisions. He is concerned that the plan jeopardizes the career of Democrat Tom McMillen in an Arundel-Eastern Shore district in which less than half the voters live in Anne Arundel.

That is a preposterous argument. Legislators have gone too far in trying to accommodate Mr. McMillen. Under the compromise plan, he would be placed in a district with a 56 percent Democratic voter registration. That's a pretty good deal.

By contrast, Republican Helen Bentley's new district would be 2-1 Democratic. Yet she is quite content. Democrat Steny Hoyer's district would be no more Democratic than Mr. McMillen's. He, too, is quite content. Democrat Beverley Byron's district would be majority Republican. Yet she is content. Why, then, should Mr. Miller bend any further to enhance Mr. McMillen's chances? He shouldn't. If Mr. McMillen, with a massive campaign bankroll and a solid Democratic majority, cannot defeat Republican Wayne Gilchrest in the new 1st District, he doesn't deserve another term in Congress.

With urgent budget matters to address, it is time for state legislators to finalize their redistricting map. The new House proposal is a fair and reasonable compromise. It should be enacted promptly.

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