Jennifer Bevan Dangel
ANNAPOLIS – With momentum building both nationally and in Maryland, the Tame the Gerrymander coalition held its annual event today in the shadows of Maryland’s state capitol building and on the birthday of gerrymandering namesake Elbridge Gerry to again call for redistricting reform in Maryland.
“Compared to Maryland state officials, Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry was an amateur at gerrymandering,” said Phil Andrews, a former member of the Montgomery County Council and former executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “The 1812 Massachusetts map that led to the term “gerrymandering” is much more compact than the 2012 Maryland congressional map (see attachments to compare), especially than Maryland’s third congressional district, which looks like blood spatter from a crime scene. Governor Larry Hogan has a historic opportunity to champion redistricting reform to empower Maryland voters and communities, and increase the number of competitive races in Maryland.”
Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, and the National Council of Jewish Women, Annapolis Section organized today’s event, part of a series of activities to persuade legislators to end gerrymandering. The event commemorated the birthday of Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and who later served as governor of Massachusetts. Gerry is the namesake of gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative and congressional districts for political gain. The Tame the Gerrymander members served cake and ice cream in the shadows of the State Capitol at Lawyers Mall. The mood this year was especially festive, with one speaker sharing his recipe for “Gerrymander Cake”.
The festive mood did not detract from the seriousness of the issue; or the dedication of the attendees to see change come to the state. “Maryland has some of the most contorted, gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation,” said Nancy Soreng, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland. “Gerrymandering makes a mockery of democracy and we are proud to see momentum building for reform.”
Momentum is certainly brewing both in Maryland and across the nation. Governor Hogan has publicly called for a new process for Maryland, noting in his state of the state address last February, “Gerrymandering is a form of political gamesmanship that stifles real political debate and deprives citizens of meaningful choices.”
Governor Hogan called for an independent commission to draw district lines, a process that the Supreme Court recently upheld. In Arizona State Legislature vs Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of having an independent, politically neutral body draw district lines. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in writing the court’s majority opinion, called gerrymandering “incompatible with democratic principles.” She said creation of an independent commission seeks to restore the principle “that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”
“We agree with the governor and the Supreme Court,” said Carol Ann Hecht of the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section. “”Maryland officials need to listen to the people, and enact real redistricting reform so that gerrymandering is buried and Maryland’s congressional maps empower rather than disempower voters.” Noting what Mark Antony said about Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them,” Hecht said, “Two centuries after the death Elbridge Gerry, it is time to bury gerrymandering.”
The recipe for Gerrymander Cake is available at http://bit.ly/1OcYr9V
# # #
Tame the Gerrymander is a joint effort led by Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, and the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section
The Tame the Gerrymander Coalition can be followed on Facebook (Tame the Gerrymander) or Twitter (@TameGerrymander).
Additional information available online at md.commoncause.org
Nancy Soreng, League of Women Voters of Maryland
Carol Ann Hecht, National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section
Tom Ferraro, Tame the Gerrymander
Noel Isama, Common Cause Maryland