Baltimore County's Flawed Maps

October 28, 1991

Redistricting is tearing apart Baltimore County's legislative delegation. Republicans are livid about a Democratic cabal. Blacks are enraged over a plan that limits their prospects for electing more than one minority legislator. Other Democrats are apoplectic over moves that seriously endanger their political careers.

That explains why the county's legislators approved a redistricting plan by a narrow 11-9 margin. Yet this is only the first stage in what shapes up as an angry and personal battle among incumbents and community groups.

Republicans and blacks have legitimate complaints. The approved plan seeks to undercut GOP dominance in the northern part of the county by linking it to the heavily black sections of Randallstown and Woodlawn. These black precincts are being yanked out of a largely Jewish district where growing black voting power threatens the tenure of Jewish incumbents. All of this amounts to gerrymandering. Even worse, it amounts to a blatant form of segregation in which blacks are packed into a single subdistrict, effectively denying them any chance to elect other black delegates or senators in the county.

Much of Baltimore County's redistricting problems could be solved if incumbents opt for overlapping districts with Baltimore City. Unfortunately, legislators have fanned the flames of prejudice and community misunderstanding in opposing shared districts. Yet joint districts make considerable sense in northeast and northwest Baltimore County; they could resolve many of the county's political dilemmas and help the city solve its own quandary over the loss of Assembly seats.

Sadly, the manipulation of legislative maps for personal political and ethnic gain won out in Baltimore County. We hope the governor's advisory committee does not fall into the same trap. Creating divisions and distrust within the diverse communities of Baltimore County will lead only to increased bitterness later in the decade.

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