A public watchdog group is raising questions about Maryland's proposed new congressional districts, suggesting Friday that the Democratic plan released this week would dilute the power of Hispanic voters and slice through neighborhoods.
In a statement, Common Cause describes the proposed new political maps as an example of "partisan gerrymandering" and argues that the new districts serve elected officials more than voters. Common Cause has long advocated for nonpartisan commissions, rather than politically appointed panels, to redraw political boundaries.
The group notes that the proposed maps would shift about 30 percent of the state's population into districts. It argues that Hispanic voters are too thinly spread out to influence elections and that some congressional districts, such as the one represented by Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards, are too heterogeneous.
Edwards' district would mix a heavily African-American population in Prince George's County with more affluent, conservative, white voters in Anne Arundel County, the group said.
"Often when such a district is devised like this, one group of constituents and their preferred concerns is simply favored over those most in need of responsive representation to pressing problems," the group said.
The Common Cause memo comes as several outside groups – and at least one member of the state's congressional delegation – have raised similar concerns. Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, whose conservative Western Maryland district would become far more Democratic under the plan, warned Thursday night that the proposal may not go far enough to protect minority voting power.
The proposed new map was crafted by a commission appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. The Maryland General Assembly will consider the proposal during a special session that will begin later this month.