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Trying to tame the wild Gerrymander

It's time to send a message to Annapolis that Democrats have gone too far in their grotesque and unfair congressional boundary lines.

The situation in Reisterstown, Glyndon, Owings Mills and Randallstown is particularly egregious. We've been sliced, diced and divided among not one, not two but three different congressmen.

You can't able to tell who's representing you without a scorecard.

Keeping voters in confusion seems to be part of the plan.

Each incumbent distorted his district's boundary lines to pick up more supporters. The result is that on some streets those living in odd-numbered houses are represented by one congressman and even-number homes are represented by a different member of Congress.

In a few local neighborhoods, the three congressional districts nearly collide.

This may be politics are usual for incumbents Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes but for the rest of us it is outrageous gerrymandering - the pretzel-like twisting and bending of political districts until the playing field is heavily tilted in the incumbent's favor.

Since Democrats rule Annapolis, they draw the lines every 10 years. This time, their handiwork has been judged by "National Journal" as among the least compact in the country.

Sarbanes' absurdity of a district was described by U.S. District Judge Paul Niemeyer as "reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate" across Central Maryland.

Both he and Ruppersberger have districts with no land connecting some of their isolated voters.

Ruppersberger not only represents Randallstown and parts of Reisterstown, Owings Mills and Glyndon, his district also stretches northeast to the Susquehanna River in Harford County and south nearly as far as Prince George's County.

Try to picture Sarbanes' weird district: It dips inside the Capital Beltway near Silver Spring, somehow meanders into Annapolis, captures voters in White Marsh, Towson, large swaths of Reisterstown Road and along the Jones Falls Expressway halfway to Baltimore's City Hall.

Cummings' district is equally absurd, joining liberal inner city neighborhoods with some of the most conservative and rural sections of Baltimore and Howard counties.

While these bizarre lines ensure re-election for the three incumbents, this disgraceful map manipulation can be changed next month.

Thanks to the diligent work of Del. Neil Parrott of Hagerstown and other Republicans, enough signatures were gathered to petition this redistricting nightmare to referendum.

A "no" vote guarantees that legislators in Annapolis must re-draw Maryland's congressional maps. A lopsided "no" vote would send a powerful message.

It's probably wishful thinking to believe incumbents will let a nonpartisan panel submit new boundary lines that are sensible and compact.

Yet when the will of the people is expressed loudly at the ballot box, politicians tend to listen. This is one opportunity voters should not miss.

Barry Rascovar of Reisterstown is a political columnist and communications consultant. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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