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House Passes Controversial Redistricting Bill

Barve: Map is "not that fundamentally differently than the plan we have now."

By Jessica Talson

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS—The Maryland House of Delegates passed a congressional redistricting bill Wednesday that drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, who said it dilutes minority voting power and ignores geographical and political lines.

The passed 91 to 46 in the House. The Senate approved the bill 33 to 13 on Tuesday. The bill will go back to the Senate on Thursday for approval of technical amendments, such as correcting typos.

The new congressional districts would slice away the more conservative part of District 6, represented by 10-term U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) of Frederick County, making it marginally more Democratic. If Democrats retain their congressional seats and a Democrat is able to defeat Bartlett, Democrats would hold seven of the state’s eight congressional seats.

After the House vote, Bartlett issued a statement saying the new map does a poor job of representing minorities and rural residents. But he said the new map would not scare him into retirement.

“I filed for re-election in June and approval of this map hasn’t changed my plans to seek re-election to represent the residents of Maryland’s Sixth District in the U.S. House of Representatives,” he said, in the statement.

During the debate in the House, politicians from both sides of the aisle acknowledged the political reality of redistricting.

“I think it’s fair to say we expect some aspect of gerrymandering in any redistricting, but this takes it beyond the pale,” said Del. Herbert McMillan (R-Dist. 30) of Anne Arundel County.

Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Dist. 25) of Prince George’s County, the chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland Redistricting Work Group, said the plan dilutes minority votes by breaking them up into several districts. She also believes Marylanders were not given enough of an opportunity to study the map.

“Collectively, we know this process is flawed and we have an opportunity to correct it,” said Braveboy, who voted against the plan.

Four new redistricting maps were introduced as amendments during Wednesday’s debate. Republicans introduced three of the maps that largely divided counties by geographical and political boundaries.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Dist. 18) of Chevy Chase introduced a map that changed the proposed districts in Montgomery County. All of the amendments failed.

Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr. (D-Dist. 10) of Baltimore County voted for the governor’s map but said that he felt conflicted between creating another majority-minority district and putting another Democrat in Congress.

“We have before us an interesting dilemma. I really am very pleased … that my friends are interested in the welfare of getting us to the majority-minority districts,” said Burns, referring to Republican opponents of the plan.

However, Democratic leaders felt that the new redistricting plan was fair to the voters of Maryland and supported minority interests.

House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville told the assembly that no matter what type of plan is created, some people will be unhappy. He said that minorities are well represented and the districts are competitive. Barve believes the plan would survive any court challenge.

Barve also said that the geography of Maryland makes it difficult to make compact, neat districts like some of the big, square states.

“Some people have said it looks ugly, it doesn’t look good, but it’s not that fundamentally differently than the plan we have now…," he said. "I don’t think this plan is going to fail constitutionally.”

JH October 21, 2011 at 07:06 PM
For District 6 you will see all kinds of candidates from the looney left. The ones that made a mess out of Montgomery County will be sure to get into the race. No wonder that County has so many social and economic problems today -- increasing rates of poverty, gang violence, and falling incomes and school test scores. Montgomery County political leaders created these problems. Now they can do the same for all of District 6.
Doug R October 21, 2011 at 08:21 PM
That's an interesting comment JH. As a Montgomery County and City of Rockville resident, I feel that our elected leaders have succeeded in making Montgomery County one of the best places to live anywhere around here. We have some of the highest incomes, excellent jobs, unparalleled public schools, great government services, smart and good government managed as services, and a solid fiscally responsible bond rating that means we are balancing our costs and revenues in a way that sustains government, residents, and commerce. Do we have issues with crime, poverty, and gang violence in places? I'm sure we may, but pretending that is the state of our fine County is ludicrous and people who live here know that. You see, the progressive left values good government, fiscal responsibility, and sound efficient investments. The right-wing extremists seek nothing less than the incapacitation and dismantling of good government, and we're not going to let that happen.

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