The ability for the Republicans to get a piece of legislation up for referendum this year is pretty amazing because of Maryland’s tough rules, let alone, to get three pieces, but that is exactly what Delegate Neal Parrot has been able to do this year. Maryland’s State Board of Elections requires all signatures for legislation to be written exactly as it appears on a person’s voter notification card. Since you aren’t required to present your voter notification card, most people throw them away and have no idea how their name is written on it. Middle name, or middle initial, nothing at all… you have to be exact or else your signature is tossed. It’s a great way to retain power in the power that exists. Voter intention be damned.
We already covered same sex marriage and gambling expansion (although that’s a ballot initiative not a referendum). The other two issues referred to voters are the Maryland version of the “Dream Act” and the gerrymandered congressional districts. It’s the latter issue that really is getting the Republican Establishment excited, mainly because the most egregiously gerrymandered district is the Western Maryland congressional district that is wanted by Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney and Delegate Neil Parrot, and Senator David Brinkley, and Delegate (okay I hope you get the point that half the Republicans in Annapolis intended on running for this seat after Bartlett retired and now the Democrats have redrawn it so that it is extremely competitive/really leaning Democratic).
No matter what party you belong to though, you can’t defend the way these seats were drawn, they are pretty crazy. And the Legislative districts are just as bad, but they couldn’t be challenged because the Democrats never actually passed a bill to draw the districts, they just let the Governor’s plan go into effect. But it’s also not a topic that can gather a lot of energy outside of the establishment. I have been trying to write this piece for three days and it is tough to get excited about it.
But as a whole, the process we use in this state to draw the political lines is broken and immoral. To let the party in power draw lines however they want in order to continue to hold power is one of the great failings of our Democracy. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said that the fact that we use race to group people together in government, and it is actually required by law to do so, is “a sordid business” but it is actually required by law in order to have a majority minority district. Democrats and Republicans across the country do this all the time though, with Republicans trying to concentrate the black (and now latino vote) in as few districts as possible, whereas Democrats try to spread them out in order to sway the vote as best they can. This is the reason that pretty much every Congressional District except the First touches either 695 or 495.
Regardless, of the merits of gerrymandering and the indefensible nature of the districts, I wanted to bring up a possible scenario. Before I present this, I want this in no way to sway your No Vote on Question 5. Prior to this election, Maryland has 2 Republican safe seats and 6 Democratic safe seats in Congress, despite the state having a closer Democrat/Republican split when it comes to statewide races. The Democrats redrew the districts so that District 6 which is currently held by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett leans toward the Democrats in hopes that State Senator Rob Garagiola would get the seat. He lost the primary to Clinton financier John Delaney, but Democrats still have the upper hand especially because of Bartlett’s poor campaigning, advanced age, and frequent gaffs comparing everything to the holocaust.
So Roscoe Bartlett loses this seat in the election and Democrat John Delaney is seated. But at the same time, Marylanders reject Question 5 and send the Congressional plan back to the drawing board, giving Democrats a new chance to redraw the lines. Having secured 7 out of 8 seats, naturally the Democrats will move their attention to getting 8 out of 8. They can draw the seat of District 6 to be a little less Democratic, shifting those votes to Congressional District 1 since John Delaney will be an incumbent Congressman with a ton of campaign cash, and they can then target Congressman Andy Harris. It is possible to draw even crazier districts that put all 8 seats in reach for the Democrats, although incredibly tough without a ton of special interest cash that John Delaney and Wall Street wonder boy Chris Van Hollen can provide.
It’s just a possible scenario. Rejecting Question 5 doesn’t guarantee that Democrats in Annapolis will listen to voters when they say draw districts that make sense, and it could have a detrimental effect for Republicans, but it will be the first step in sending a message that districts should be compact and make sense.