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In redistricting efforts, one thing is clear: advantage takes precedence over fairness | READER COMMENTARY

Redrawn districts should profile Democrats’ courage

Let me start by saying this is not a lecture. It’s a gut check. The special session in the Maryland General Assembly to discuss redrawing Maryland’s congressional districts begins today. My fellow Democrats in the General Assembly should display courage and leadership during redistricting with a reasonably fair and politically inclusive congressional district map.

In a letter to the editor in The Baltimore Sun, former Republican Congressman for Maryland’s 1st District Wayne Gilchrist stated, “As a believer in democracy and the will of the people, I support a redrawn 1st District that allows voters to render a verdict on Congressman Harris.” (“Gilchrest: Refashion my old Md. congressional district to leave Andy Harris out,” Nov. 4))

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The verdict that Mr. Gilchrist referred to is against Maryland’s current 1st District Congressman Andy Harris. Congressman Harris voted to decertify the 2020 election and sided repeatedly with rioters from the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. While I strongly disagree with Congressman Harris’ politics and actions, I also disagree with the uses and interpretation of democracy that Mr. Gilchrist explained.

My interpretation of democracy fully embraces the possibilities of good policy and constituent outreach that wins the votes necessary to render a verdict on Congressman Harris, not gerrymandering. Maryland Democrats should use the strength of seven U.S. congressmen and a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly to listen to constituents in Maryland’s 1st District and develop legislation that acknowledges and addresses their concerns.

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Decisions made by the General Assembly over the next few weeks will impact Maryland voters for the next 10 years. We should give every Marylander the reasonable opportunity to enter a ballot booth with voters that share similar regional interests. Redrawing districts that shut out all chances of Republican representation in Maryland is not fair and does not display political courage or leadership.

Fair districts in Maryland would run East-West across the map and consider county boundaries, making it a far more politically realistic map that reflects Democrats’ strength in the south and Republicans’ strength in the north and along the Eastern Shore.

Democracy doesn’t punish the masses in order to indict or impose judgment on a few. What we believe must be proven through our actions and not simply what we say. We should strive to inspire our opposition by the example we set and avoid the allure of undemocratic gerrymandering tactics. I urge Democrats in the General Assembly to consider this during the upcoming special session.

George Croom, Baltimore

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The writer is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in Maryland’s 3rd District.

No one wants fair maps

Don’t be fooled by cries for “independent” commissions to draw fair maps that put an end to partisan gerrymandering. In today’s political environment, it is impossible to appoint an “independent” commission. Both parties want new maps that give their political party an advantage.

If people truly wanted fair maps, they would demand that a computer program be designed that takes all of the data points into account and draws maps that are truly fair and that truly represent the electorate. Until then all of the yammering for fair maps is just political pap.

Linda Snyder, Glen Arm

Dismay and disgust with local politicians

Reading your Nov. 17th update on Baltimore County Council’s redistricting process, we were left with the all-too familiar feeling of dismay and disgust with our local politicians (“New Baltimore County redistricting map doesn’t create second majority-Black district; it unites Towson in single district”). How are they so consistently disappointing? After the Oct. 26th public hearing, with its overwhelming public opposition to the plan and requests for a second majority Black district, there seemed to be some hope. The council agreed to redraw the maps, listen to their constituents, and pursue justice.

Not even one month later, and their promises are revealed to be meaningless. It’s probably on us for allowing ourselves to be fooled into thinking our elected officials are capable of following the will of the people and promoting racial justice. The problem with these district maps is a problem with our democracy. All people get to vote, but by packing minority votes into one district, their power is limited. Baltimore County Council members need to realize that people of color are not simply a minority who should be happy with a single voice at the table. The demographics of the county as well as our country have changed. Refusal to redistrict and fairly allot political power is evidence of the white supremacy that permeates our government.

For those who question whether this is really an issue of race, how else do you explain how, of the two major demands voiced at the public hearing, the only one heeded by our politicians was the unification of the majority-white Towson? It is past time that Baltimore County Council members accurately reflect the demographic makeup of its citizens and work to serve the people of color who make up more and more of its citizens, rather than only the white residents. There is still time for the council to do the right thing as the maps do not need to be approved until Jan. 31st 2022. Will they?

Jeremiah Savage, Daria Stein and Graeme Thistlewaite

The writers are graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Math could solve the redistricting problem

I agree with letter writer David Griggs that, regrettably, political power currently drives Maryland’s — and most other — redistricting (”Gerrymandered districts embarrass the state,” Nov. 25). I am surprised that so little attention has been given to mathematically-based methods that could assist in a more nonpartisan approach. Using multiple factors to be weighed in deciding on district bounds along with current geographic and demographic data, topographical methods that are computer-implemented could be utilized to produce reasonably compact districts. A start has been made at Brown University and elsewhere. While weighing the factors to inform the process would produce much political debate and compromise, and current distrust by many of science would need to be addressed, the effort could produce a more truly representative Congress. This is a worthy goal if we wish to preserve our democracy.

Roberta Evans Sabin, Pasadena

The writer is professor emerita of computer science at Loyola University Maryland.

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No hope for Republicans

Thanks to the proposed redrawn district lines, there’s a good chance Republicans in Maryland have absolutely no hope of representation in Washington. Lines were redrawn under O’Malley that took away the Roscoe Bartlett area and aligned it with the city and west Baltimore. Now they want to chop up the 1st District. I’d bet a month’s salary that if that area had a Democrat rep, the lines would stay put. Hey Annapolis: Maryland DOES have Republicans, and we deserve to be heard, too. SHAME ON YOU!

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Diane Pazourek, Sparks

Two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right

The argument that Maryland should continue to gerrymander districts because other states will continue to do so is fraught with problems (”Democrats should absolutely end gerrymandering — the day the Republicans do the same,” Nov. 16).

First and foremost is the flawed concept that gerrymandering in perpetual blue Maryland is a sound and proper policy. It only makes sense if you put party first and the people of Maryland second. It’s merely a rationalization for knowingly doing the wrong thing. Why should Marylanders live with districts that only Elbridge Gerry could love because another state won’t adopt an independent commission? That’s North Carolina’s problem, not ours.

Nothing would make me happier than to see Andy Harris lose his seat in Congress. But to premeditatedly gerrymander him out of his seat is wrong and smacks of cronyism. Just last week former Republican congressman Wayne Gilcrest announced publicly he thought it was a good idea to redistrict Andy Harris out of his seat. It’s not. It’s gaming the system. It’s cheating.

The people of Maryland will remain mired in this political standoff where the Democrats just continue to gerrymander regardless of the negative effects. Eight states, including very blue California, have independent commissions. It hasn’t affected the balance of power. But it does afford those states’ citizens fair, balanced, and independently drawn district maps.

Independent commissions insure the basic tenets of our constitution that everyone is treated equally before the law, which includes voting rights. People get upset if voting rights are restricted yet gerrymandering in any state undermines the value of each and every vote cast. Restricting voting access and gerrymandering are both unethical. Let’s not do either.

We need an independent redistricting commission.

Dudley Thompson, Girdletree

Gerrymandering reduces respect for government

Does it occur to the editors that gerrymandering, even if it did have a “virtuous” cause, reduces the respect for government and increases the problems of localities like Baltimore City that need government to be effective? Each of the maps created by the state majority still contains at least three congressional districts that look like week-old roadkill.

Forcibly marrying the oblivious limousine liberalism of the Montgomery urban core with the toxic Trumpism of Carroll County isn’t helping anyone.

Joseph Fisher, Baltimore

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

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