As Maryland voters count down to the November general election, two opposing candidates caught in the latest controversy over gerrymandered districts have found agreement on that one issue.
Both Sixth Congressional District incumbent congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R) and his Democratic challenger John Delaney say they are upset with the way the state has divided the district, but both claim they are also the only candidate who can lead the district.
It is not breaking news that the Maryland congressional district map has been subject to more gerrymandering than most other states in the country. With obscurely shaped blotches of color haphazardly dispersed over a map of Maryland, the 2012 congressional districting map is reminiscent of a preschooler’s watercolor painting; only this work of art isn’t likely to be stuck on anybody’s fridge.
Part of the controversy surrounding the redrawing of the sixth congressional district arises from the concerns of Maryland voters who feel disenfranchised by the convolution and lack of transparency behind the districting system. According to MDpetitions.com, a site that supports a referendum to the 2012 redistricting plan, gerrymandering perpetuates an inaccurate representation of a district’s population and purposely changes the demographic of certain districts to minimize minority voting power.
Affected more heavily than the general population are Delaney and Bartlett; the two candidates running for congress from the district in the November general election. The legislature that created the new congressional districts is democratic, and it is widely speculated that the new maps were strategically drawn to favor a democratic candidate – though not the candidate ultimately facing Bartlett. Delaney is an outsider who was a surprising winner in the Democratic primary. Bartlett, from Buckeystown now battles for his incumbency with a more urban section of Montgomery County part of his district. According to his supporters, this area is more likely to vote against him.
Bartlett strongly opposes the 2012 redistricting. He backs a current referendum to eliminate the new district and leads conferences about the negative effects of gerrymandering, trying to get citizens on board with the petition effort. “Congressman Bartlett opposes the redistricting because it disenfranchises many Maryland minorities,” says Bartlett’s press secretary Lisa Wright. Wright maintains that Bartlett is confident he will beat his opponent and is “honored to represent district six.” Bartlett believes that his background as a scientist and small business owner, and his policies on renewable energy and conservation will attract many swing votes. He believes that, despite the change, the district six population will see that he shares many of their interests and has mutual concerns.
Delaney is also an opponent of gerrymandering. “There is so much controversy because people realize our redistricting process is flawed” says Delaney’s campaign manager, Justin Schall. “That’s why John has made redistricting reform a priority in his platform. John believes we would be better served with independent commissions and greater public transparency. The fact is, the current map was produced by the process we have in place and upheld by the courts.”
By Chris Hinkel