Delegation should reject proposed congressional map

As the Howard County delegation heads to Annapolis for a special session, we urge its members to put principle above party politics and oppose the gerrymandered mess the Democratic leadership is about to propose as the new congressional map in Maryland.

The committee appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to redraw the lines based on population shifts measured in the 2010 census showed its proposal to House and Senate Democratic caucuses Oct. 3. Its map might be even more of a jigsaw puzzle than the current one.

It would apportion Howard County voters to three different districts — the current map, implemented in 2002, has just two representatives splitting the county — further diluting any leverage Howard has in Washington. But that's not the worst thing about the proposed map.

The new map clearly shows O'Malley and his committee gunning for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who has represented western Maryland in Congress since 1993. The committee's proposal would put a large chunk of Montgomery County — a Democratic stronghold — into Bartlett's district. Meanwhile, the districts of Democrats Donna Edwards, Dutch Ruppersburger, John Sarbanes and Elijah Cummings curl around each like a nest of snakes in the heart of central Maryland.

Sarbanes and Cummings — both have constituents here already — along with Ruppersburger, would each get a chunk of Howard County under this plan. That's assuming, of course, that they get re-elected. If history is any guide, though, it's a pretty safe bet and the way the districts are redrawn after every census keeps the odds in favor of incumbents who belong to the party in power.

Republicans in red states routinely pull the same stunt. In Maryland, it happens to be the Democrats holding the reins and ignoring the principle of compact districts while trying to gain further political advantage. Too often even most honorable elected officials remain silent as this game continues.

We challenge the Democratic majority on the county's delegation to the General Assembly to speak up and call this map what it is. Give the voters a break and break the cycle of power solidification.

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