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Rick Blatchford: Maryland should want to undo gerrymandering

Gov. Larry Hogan has begun efforts to bring the shapes of Maryland's congressional districts into some semblance of order. Although in the beginning some attention was given to the effort, media attention has now faded. Prior to 1990, the shape of Maryland's congressional districts made some degree of sense. They pretty much adhered to the principle that the shapes of districts should be compact and contiguous. Remember those words when you look at the current shapes of Maryland's districts. Originally, district boundaries generally followed traditional boundary guidelines such as streams, roads, county borders, etc. Any study of today's district boundary lines will find little of that.

Maryland Democrats, since 1990, have manipulated the lines repeatedly with one goal in mind — keeping Republicans out of national office. An intended goal in 2010 was the removal of Roscoe Bartlett from office. Ultimately Bartlett was replaced by a Democrat — another successful Maryland gerrymander.

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Chris Van Hollen, D-District 8, first attained national office because Democrats gerrymandered Connie Morella's district in Montgomery County so that he could win. As evidence, I offer the following from an Oct. 20, 2011, Washington Post Magazine article by Timothy R. Smith: "But following the 2000 Census, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening and Maryland Senate president Mike Miller, both Democrats, redrew her district to try to force her out in 2002. She fought a hard campaign against then-state Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr. but lost narrowly, 48 percent to 52 percent."

Based upon the forgoing, a case could be made that Van Hollen would not be in national office without gerrymandering.

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As for the leaders in our General Assembly, Hogan will not get any redistricting assistance from them. It was reported that Senate President Miller said "It's not going to happen." Both he and House Speaker Busch point to other states to excuse their inaction. They say that other states gerrymander, why not Maryland? I contend that this is an argument more befitting children. It's reminiscent of a youngster complaining to mom that other kids don't have to do something, why should he or she? Such is the state of our elected leaders.

It occurs to me that Maryland politicians love to claim being first in various areas. They love citing high educational achievements, restrictive gun controls and the elimination of police profiling. Why then do they not want to be leaders in the national elimination of gerrymandering? The answer is clear. To do so would give Republicans a level playing field in seeking office. This, the Democrats are not inclined to do. Ponder the possibility of Maryland Democrats giving a Republican an even break. Mind boggling isn't it?

I'd like to share one recent experience to illustrate the futility Republicans face in this state. I had an exchange with an individual on this subject. He said, "Maryland Democrats are only doing what is accepted political strategy. Why should Bush [sic] and Miller play softball with Republicans? I want the elected officials that represent my party to do everything within the law to crush the GOP."

There you have it. Sadly, I've come to believe that this is the view of too many Democrats in Maryland. With that in mind, I have to admit to getting a kick out of Democrats who live in Carroll County when they complain about living in a primarily Republican county. My standard response is "Now you know how Republicans feel in Maryland."

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The system needs fixing, folks. I'm for a more level playing field. Is that such an unfair thing to ask? There's a man in the White House who frequently talks about being fair. What is fair to you?

If you are not familiar with the actual shapes of Maryland's congressional districts, or want to refresh your memory, please check them out at: http://www.msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/39fed/dist/html/2012.html.

Be informed.

Remember, when you look at the actual district shapes online, the idea of redistricting was to account for population shifts. Additionally, although it was known that shapes could and would change, the general intent was for district shapes to remain compact and contiguous. Do Maryland's districts meet that test?

Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. Email him at rpblatch4d@comcast.net.

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