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Reject the Maryland gerrymander

Kathleen Dumais' op-ed ("Md. congressional map is fair, legal," Oct. 29) contained several inaccuracies. I am very familiar with the redistricting process since I attended most of the public hearings conducted by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee (GRAC) last year, and Marylanders for Coherent and Fair Representation was the driving force in the federal court case challenging the governor's congressional redistricting plan based primarily on insufficient consideration of communities of interest.

Delegate Dumais was wrong in claiming that "District 3, which was actually re-drawn by the Court of Appeals themselves in 2002." Actually, the 2002 congressional plan was challenged in federal court (not state court), and upheld. She should refer to the state legislative districts re-drawn by the Court of Appeals.

The delegate was mistaken in stating that "Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett … served as the chairman of the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee in 2002." Actually, the 2002 chairman was John T. Willis, Maryland Secretary of State. A fact that Secretary Willis repeatedly stated when I participated with him in a public forum about Question 5 with the League of Women Voters event in Howard County.

Delegate Dumais was misleading in her statement that "the 2012 Congressional map actually keeps more Marylanders in their existing districts than the 2002 plan." Almost one-third of the state's population was moved into new districts, which is a higher percentage than was shifted after the 2002 census.

The governor's map was not presented during the public hearings at all. The map was made public a few days before the special session in Annapolis and there was no opportunity for the people to respond to this map until testimony was received during the legislative special session. Let me make this perfectly clear, this map was kept secret during the entire public hearings process. The comments on the redistricting process at the public hearings were referring to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's 2002 map.

In 2009, a geospatial analysis firm, Azavea, released its white paper "Redrawing the Map on Redistricting 2010: A National Study" and declared that the 2002 Congressional Map enabled Maryland to have the least compact congressional districts in the nation, based on four mathematical tools for compactness. (Last week Maryland repeated its title in Azavea's "Redrawing the Map on Redistricting 2012 — Addendum"). Ms. Dumais proudly states the 2011 map keeps over 70 percent of Marylanders in their same congressional districts. But the 2002 map already had the distinction as the most gerrymandered congressional map of all states. In order to avoid another national embarrassment, the governor should have increased compactness on all eight congressional districts for the 2012 election. But he didn't.

Delegate Dumais claims that "redistricting was fair and transparent." The simple fact that the map was never seen by the people it impacts before it was introduced in the legislature is a clear sign of the typical backroom deals that occurs with politicians choose their voters. This arrogance of power to design tailor made gerrymandered districts that would benefit certain incumbents.

For example in the D.C. suburbs, the 4th Congressional district was created as a majority-minority district after the 1990 census. The 4th District was taken out of its base in Montgomery County so that Rep. Steny Hoyer in the 5th district could keep the University of Maryland in his district. Rep. Donna Edwards should have been allowed to continue to represent the people of Montgomery County.

In Baltimore City, gerrymandering has carved up neighborhoods into multiple Congressional districts. The community of Belair-Edison is divided into three different districts — the 2nd, the 3rd and the 7th. The 3rd district, designed for Rep. John Sarbanes to include the Baltimore and Washington metro areas, is linked together by one city block of Belair Road.

The issue is not one of legality; it is a question of coherent and fair representation. Having three different members of Congress represent one neighborhood is absurd. One look at this map has caused Democrats, independents and Republicans to come together to ask for a change in the process. It is time for the people to regain their power to choose their representatives; it is time to do what Comptroller Peter Franchot and others have asked for — to create an independent redistricting commission.

Voting against Question 5 means that the governor and General Assembly would have to redraw the new map for the 2014 election in order to restore communities of interest for our the citizens of Maryland. I urge all who care about fair representation and good government to vote against Question 5.

Antonio W. "Tony" Campbell, Towson

The writer is president of Marylanders for Coherent and Fair Representation

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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