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Md. does not have to gerrymander

Del. Kathleen Dumais wrongly claims that redistricting reform in Maryland is impossible because "until such time that change occurs at the federal level, redistricting will continue to be a partisan, political process" ("Md. congressional map is far, legal," Oct. 30). The U.S. Constitution establishes how the size of each state's Congressional delegation shall be established but leaves it to each state to decide how its district lines will be drawn. California, for example, now has an independent Citizens Commission composed of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four voters who belong to neither major party.

Defenders of Maryland's map like to point out that it has been upheld in court. But one of the great ironies of gerrymandering is that drawing maps for political purposes is such a common practice that courts have been reluctant to strike down "political" maps precisely because it would be like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. And to use another car metaphor, the delegate's claim that the new map is no worse, or not much worse, than the old map is like saying a car that has been in two accidents only needs repairs for the second accident.

Maryland needs comprehensive redistricting reform and cannot continue to let its elected officials choose their own voters by drawing the lines of the districts in which they will be running. Voting "No" on Question 5 is the first step to fixing Maryland's broken system and putting the state's voters in the driver's seat.

James Browning, Philadelphia, Pa.

The writer is regional director of state operations for Common Cause.

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