Editorial: Lawsuit appropriately targets redistricting crazy quilt



May 08, 2012

They twist and they turn. They break up communities. They sprawl across jurisdictional boundaries. And, in something akin to cellular mitosis, one has been divided into two entities that are miles apart.

"They" are the state legislative districts newly mapped out in Baltimore County. If you look up "crazy quilt," in the dictionary, an accompanying picture of the map would clearly illustrate the term.

The whole once-a-decade enterprise smacks of partisanship and back-room political horse-trading, eliciting a cynical shrug. "Thus has it ever been," some might say. "To the victors go the spoils."

But this isn't happening in a legal vacuum. The Maryland Constitution mandates that legislative districts be compact and pay "due regard" to political boundaries such as the border between city and county.

The map has its defenders. Despite the look of it, assistant Attorney General Dan Friedman, counsel to the General Assembly, has declared it "legally sufficient" within the constitution.

State Sens. James Brochin and Delores Kelley beg to differ. They have filed a lawsuit asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to invalidate the redistricting plan. That plan became law — but has not taken effect yet — when the legislature made no move replace Gov.Martin O'Malley's plan with one of their own during the recent legislative session.

We think the two senators have every reason to protest.

Brochin is now in a 42nd District that — though it once compactly comprised the Towson area — now extends far into north county. That means the Democrat is now representing a heavily Republican area.

This is a clear message to those, like Brochin, who have not blindly supported the governor and powers-that-be, that re-election can be made more difficult, even for a Democrat in a heavily Democratic state such as Maryland.

Kelley is uphappy that a portion of her former 10th District base is now in the new 44th District, which crosses the city-county line. Her reconfigured 10th District extends north of Reisterstown and farther north. Many of her new constituents won't know who she is while some Catonsville residents will be represented by a city senator.

Underlying the redistricting is a legislative tug-of-war between the city, which wants to maintain its clout in Annapolis despite a shrinking population, and the county, where many feel a growing population entitles the county to more seats in the General Assembly.

Given the statewide political interests at stake — and the powers in back of those interests — Brochin and Kelley have their work cut out for them.

Still, they are saying out loud that what appears to be unfair really is unfair. And that's worth something.

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