'Crazy' Redistricting Leaves Voters Confused, Apathetic

February 17, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

If not for the map in the corner, some people who showed up to hear congressional candidates talk in Glen Burnie on Saturday wouldn't have known whom to listen to.

Jo Tollenger, a Severna Park resident, had no idea what district she lived in. And when she found out, she didn't know any of the candidates.

"This is crazy," she said, after finding her home was in the 2nd District, which includes Harford County, a big chunk of Baltimore County and a sliver of Anne Arundel.

But Tollenger wasn't the only person at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association building who was confused.

"What a zoo," said Michael C. Hickey Jr., a Harford County Democrat running in the 2nd District who also was perplexed by the map.

"I had an idea what my district was. But the way I draw lines ona

map isn't necessarily the way they draw lines on a map. I was close. I am amazed."

Tollenger nearly gave up. "I'm going to vote for the person I like," she said.

Welcome to the 1992 congressionalrace in Anne Arundel County, where a four-district split seems to betranslating into voter apathy.

With just two weeks left before the March 3 primary, candidate forums are sparsely attended, candidateshave their campaign signs posted in the wrong districts and voters are frustrated. Too many candidates running in too many districts haveleft voters confused.

Represented for the past 10 years by one congressman in Maryland's 4th District, the county found itself dividedfour ways after last year's redistricting.

U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, is now running in the 1st District, which combines a chunk of Anne Arundel with the Eastern Shore, represented by Republican Rep.Wayne T. Gilchrest.

Odenton is now split into three districts andCrofton and Severna Park are divided in two. Residents don't like itone bit. In fact, most seem to be boycotting the election altogether.

"There is apathy," said Mary Ann Love, a member of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee. "Redistricting has hurt it. People don't know who they are voting for."

Only a handful of people showed up last Tuesday for the GOP forum at Anne Arundel CommunityCollege. And almost all of them either worked for candidates or wereparty stalwarts.

"The county is definitely suffering because of having been chopped up in four," said Laura Green Treffer, chairman ofthe county's Republican Central Committee.

The division means that voters in the 3rd District -- which includes Harmans, Linthicum andPumphrey -- and voters in the 2nd District -- which includes East Severna Park, Gibson Island and a part of Pasadena -- are hearing pitches from candidates who live in Bel Air.

It also means that McMillen, who has represented the county since 1987, now must spend a lot oftime on the Eastern Shore, where 60 percent of the new 1st District's 151,000 registered Democrats live.

That's why he was late Saturday. He was meeting with watermen on Tilghman Island. Trying to play to both sides of the Chesapeake Bay can be tiring and costly.

A group of Glen Burnie residents asked him to attend a rally next week that would attract 1,000 people. But it conflicted with a debate on the Eastern Shore that McMillen said he couldn't miss.

But while all the candidates seem to be upset with the way Anne Arundel got divided,it doesn't mean those running can't score political points with the issue.

"We're split up today because your delegates didn't have enough control to hold your county together," said 2nd District Democratic candidate Joseph J. Bish Jr. Saturday.

"I have to drive all the way down here from Harford County to represent people on Gibson Island. The people running Anne Arundel County blew it. It would have been better if you had someone with power."

A few minutes later, in a separate room, McMillen put his own spin on redistricting, telling voters it is more important then ever to elect someone with experience in the county.

But the big question that voters like Tollenger have is whether the parts of Anne Arundel that have been siphoned off to other larger districts will get a fair shake in Congress, especially since the number of Anne Arundel County voters in the 2nd and 3rd districts hardly will play a role in the election.

And voters in those districts may not even get a chance to see the candidates.

"I've tried to get down here to meet them, but unfortunately, this is probably the only chance I'll get," Hickey said.

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