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John Culleton: Three levels of gerrymandering

The word gerrymander goes back to 1812, when Gov. Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, redrew election districts so badly that one of the Boston districts resembled a salamander. He did this to give unfair advantage to his party, the Democratic-Republicans, now called the Democratic Party.

Residents of Carroll County have the doubtful distinction of being subjected to three sets of gerrymandering at one time. As a result of the 2010 census year congressional districts are up for grabs. Since the governor's plan was not challenged by the Maryland legislature we will have two congressional districts, and longtime incumbent Roscoe Bartlett won't be in either one.

It is all a part of a scheme to generate one more Democratic representative in the Maryland delegation. Those in the northern part of the county will get to vote for a Republican incumbent from the Eastern Shore, and the rest of us will be put in the 8th District, where Democrat Chris Van Hollen is the current incumbent. The 6th District will lose many Republican votes in the hope that Bartlett, or his Republican replacement, should he choose not to run, will be defeated by a Democrat.

If, as is likely, Van Hollen wins the 8th District, Carroll will be represented by a Democrat in Congress for the first time in many years.

But, depending on how Van Hollen chooses to react to this accretion, that may be an advantage. There may be government installations up for grabs that could be relocated here. And Van Hollen, who may have difficulty holding onto his seat, may want to placate his Carroll County constituents.

The Maryland legislative redistricting was even more destructive to the wishes of Carroll County residents. A single district with three slots will be the home of four current incumbent delegates.

It is not known who will be the odd man or woman out. About one quarter of Carroll will be represented by two delegates from Howard County and three from Frederick County.

All the Carroll delegates are likely to be Republicans, so Carroll still won't have a voice in the Democratic caucus in Annapolis. And only three of the eight delegates are likely to be Carroll residents.

The final gerrymander is a self-inflicted wound. Our goofy commissioner map, designed to unseat Julia Gouge and Perry Jones years ago, will likely be retained. A map with more compact districts is available and was recommended by the bipartisan committee. Good luck on getting that map in place.

If our current commissioners are re-elected, we can only hope that their performance will improve with age.

Their first tour of duty has been marred with missteps, including the infamous no-bid contract for a county spokesman, the out of county environmental summit, the failure to grasp the opportunity for airport expansion, the unwise tax cut in the face of falling revenues - the list goes on.

At least two of these incumbents, and perhaps more, deserve to be returned to their private pursuits, and a reasonable district map might be the handiest way to accomplish that. But don't hold your breath.

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