Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lines in the Sand

My RedMaryland colleague Michael Swartz has done some excellent analysis about the likely prospects of Congressional and Legislative reapportionment here in Maryland following the 2010 election. And some of it is not pretty. Based on some of the potential redistricting plans Michael found floated by "silver spring" on the Swing State Project website, we could be in for a huge problem here in Maryland.

Take a look at this Congressional District map:What do the inner DC suburbs have to do with Carroll County? What does Gibson Island have in common with District Heights? Nothing, but that's one of the many permutations that Democrats could concoct after the next year's census.

The legislative plans? Potentially worse:
Heavily gerrymandered districts designed to do Mike Miller's goal of "burying Republicans for forty years?" You betcha.

Anybody who has been around Maryland politics during this decade knows what can happy when it comes to the reapportionment process. And that is what makes the 2010 Gubernatorial election so vitally important to the state of Maryland. In Maryland the process is, more or less, completely controlled by the Governor. Once the Governor introduces his plan to the General Assembly, the General Assembly has forty-five days to pass their own redistricting plan or else the one that is proposed by the Governor is put into place. Of course, the likelihood of a majority of the General Assembly agreeing to the creation of district lines, particularly those for their own seats, when members of the Assembly are bound to find themselves in an uncomfortable position is relatively unlikely. So the likelihood of the plan proposed by whomever is Governor is 2011 being adopted is a relative certainty.

Now, rewind back to 2002 and the legislative and congressional plans introduced by Parris Glendening. The plans were introduced by the Governor and became law 45 days after their proposal due to the inability of the General Assembly to adopt its own plan. Glendening's plans presented us with laughably gerrymandered districts; you can see his Congressional Districting plan, which remains in effect today. However, his legislative districting plan was so onerous and ridiculous that it clearly did not meet the Constitutional requirements for legislative districting; some districts were not geographically congruous and many districts were clearly designed to screw Glendening's political opponents. For example, six precincts from Baltimore County were mysteriously redistricted to District 31, across the Patapsco River in Anne Arundel County. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that State Senator Norm Stone lived in one of those six precincts. Because of such shenanigans, Glendening's plan was tossed out of court and replaced with today's court-imposed plan in late June 2002.

Now this brings us back to the importance of the 2010 Gubernatorial Election. The Governor has the power to create these legislative district lines. Which means the voters of Maryland have an opportunity, moreso than in most elections, to have major longstanding change on the makeup of the Maryland General Assembly. And there are two distinctive scenarios.

Scenario one sees Martin O'Malley reelected. And can you imagine the districts that this petulant Governor would come up with? Given O'Malley's ability to hold grudges and inability to lead, no legislator who has ever crossed O'Malley would be safe. Anne Arundel County, for example, would likely be shredded to pieces, with shared districts across county lines to force a Republican leaning county into districts with more sympathetically Democratic areas in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard, and Prince George's County. An O'Malley redistricting plan would strike a chilling blow against competitive government and the marketplace of ideas in Maryland.

Scenario two sees the election of a Republican governor next year. And it would be a tremendous opportunity for Maryland's middle and working class families to see positive change in Maryland. We would have the opportunity to see redistricting done in a manner that is more fair, more equitable, and more in line with the ideological leanings of Maryland voters. Furthermore, we may finally see redistricting done in the most fair manner of all, with the introduction of single member districts for the election of all 141 members of the House of Delegates. Not only would this see the elimination of the constitutionally questionable one, two, or three member districts depending on your location and subdistricting, but would also allow for a greater diversity of members being elected to the General Assembly. Not only would single member districts allow for a more ideologically-balanced House of Delegates, it would also create more majority-minority districts that would allow for a more accurate minority representation in Annapolis. All in all, legislative districts drawn by a Republican governor will be more fair and more accurately representative of Maryland's economic, ideologically, and cultural diversity than anything that will be drawn by a Maryland Democrat.

These districts are not just lines in the sand; they are the basic building blocks for the elected legislators who make decisions in Annapolis. We must seriously consider the consequences of redistricting as it relates to the 2010 election, and we must make sure that the voters understand what is at stake as we get closer to next November...

(Crossposted)

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