November 16, 2008

Gerrymandered map is an abomination

Congratulations to both The Baltimore Sun and your fine columnist Jean Marbella on the article dealing with "political cartography" in Maryland ("Political cartography has strange consequences," Nov. 13). I was pleased to see such a complete analysis of the system of outlining congressional districts based on purely political grounds.

This practice is not limited to Maryland, or to Democrats or Republicans. As was pointed out in the article, former Rep. Tom DeLay was an active practioner of the art of gerrymandering in Texas, as was Gov. Parris N. Glendening in Maryland.

Whatever happened to the concept of representation of contiguous districts by elected officials accountable to the citizens from those districts? Too simple? Too much like what our Founding Fathers had in mind?

This citizen finds the current lineup of the 1st Congressional District to be an abomination, having no logical basis for its construction.

What do the citizens of isolated pockets in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties have in common with the largely rural counties on the Eastern Shore? Nothing.

Is it any wonder that Frank M. Kratovil Jr. from the Eastern Shore won the election over a candidate from the Western Shore?

Thanks again for calling attention to the egregious practice of "Glendendering" in Maryland.

Sam Davis, Towson

'Spoiler' shows need for instant runoffs

It appears that the Libertarian candidate may have flipped the 1st Congressional District election to the Democrat ("Narrow victory," Nov. 12). With only 2,154 votes separating the two major-party candidates (out of 353,000 cast), Libertarian Richard James Davis had 8,632 votes. Mr. Davis may well have given the Democrats one more seat in the U.S. Congress.

It's not that Libertarians like Democrats so much - but the Democrats should sure like the Libertarians. It's not all that uncommon for a Libertarian to flip the election to a Democrat.

For voters who don't like the possibility that a third-party candidate may "spoil" the election, there's a cure - instant runoff voting. With IRV, voters rank their candidates in order of preference, and if no one has a majority of first-choice votes, the bottom candidate is eliminated, and those votes are transferred to the voters' second choice, and so on, until someone has a majority. It completely eliminates the "spoiler" problem.

Maryland Democrats are unlikely to enact this useful reform, because they benefit from continuing the problem. But maybe the Republicans in the General Assembly will get behind this. We voters can only hope.

Douglas E. McNeil, Baltimore

The writer is co-chairman of the Maryland Instant Runoff Voting Coalition.

Who is responsible for palatial embassy?

The article calling for the controversial U.S. Embassy in Bagdad to be converted into a university for Iraqis is not such a bad idea ("Good will gesture in Iraq," Commentary, Nov. 13). When America scales back its presence in Iraq, I suppose it would be the best thing to do with this white elephant.

I thought we went in there to take down Saddam Hussein's palaces and build a democracy. This embassy, the largest in the world, with its Romanesque structure and fortress-like compound built to house 5,000 people, sounds like another castle even bigger, better and more grandiose than the ones Mr. Hussein built. It seems like we are the ones flaunting our power now. What was Congress thinking when it appropriated funds for this venture? No wonder our coffers are empty.

Lynn Pakulla Gary Pakulla, Ellicott City

No logic behind call to shut down school

A recent letter argued that the School of the Americas should be shut down because a Colombian general graduate resigned "in a widening scandal over the killing of scores of civilians" ("Time to shut down School of the Americas," Nov. 11).

If every university were to be closed down because one or more of its graduates was involved in murder or some other atrocity, I suspect that hundreds would soon be closing their doors. The fact that a graduate of a school, any school, later commits a criminal act cannot be used as a basis for claiming that the cause of the criminal act is the fact that the criminal received his education at the school. If a causal link cannot be established to an action, selecting a previous event in a person's life as the presumed cause makes no sense whatsoever.

Ronald Dobrydnio, Glen Burnie

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