Maryland Democrats Hate Gerrymandering So Much, They’re Trying To Eliminate the State’s Lone Republican District
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D–Md.) has some thoughts about gerrymandering.
When the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed Wisconsin’s congressional district map in 2017, Raskin was one of several members of Congress to submit an amicus brief calling on the court to “end partisan gerrymandering.” He’s claimed on Twitter that “gerrymandering empowers political minorities to redistrict political majorities into near-oblivion,” issued an official statement claiming that “Republican state legislators…have perfected the art of redistricting for the goal of destroying the political opposition,” and introduced a bill in Congress that would force states to use nonpartisan panels to redraw political district lines.
For the most part, Raskin’s critiques are not wrong. Bizarre and misshapen congressional districts are often the result of a partisan effort to cement certain outcomes in future elections. State lawmakers, who in most cases control the once-every-decade redistricting process, are motivated to craft maps that allow their “team” to win as many districts as possible.
That’s how you end up with districts like look like—well, sort of like Raskin’s own congressional district in Maryland:
In their current (soon-to-be-replaced) form, Maryland’s congressional districts are some of the most gerrymandered in the entire country. The current map, approved in 2011, was rated as the least-compact set of districts in the country by mapping firm Azavea in a 2012 report. (Compactness, which can be measured in several ways, is just one method of determining whether a district is gerrymandered, and while it can be flawed in some circumstances, it is generally a useful metric.) Raskin’s eighth district is actually one of the state’s least-bad districts—the current third district and sixth district were two of the nine least-compact districts in America when they were drawn, according to Azavea.
All those zigzagging district lines have helped Democrats win seven of the state’s eight congressional seats in each of the five elections held since the current map was adopted in 2011. Yes, Maryland is a blue state, but gerrymandering has exaggerated the Democratic edge—or, as Raskin might say, it has helped push Maryland’s political minority into near-oblivion.
Now, the state’s congressional map is about to get even more gerrymandered.
The Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission voted on November 23 to give preliminary approval to one of the four maps drawn up by state lawmakers who sit on the panel. The recommended map would give Democrats an electoral advantage in all eight of the state’s districts by carving up Maryland’s deep blue Baltimore/Washington corridor so that nearly all of the state’s congressional districts include some part of it.
The proposed map gets an F from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which grades congressional maps on partisan fairness, geographical compactness, and other factors. The Maryland map gets a failing grade for both its obvious lack of compactness and for the resulting political favoritism.
A fairer map, the group says, would give Democrats an edge in five or six districts.
Actually, such a map was proposed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, a group that included three Republicans, thr
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