As political junkies know, there’s a race down to the wire on whether Maryland voters will be given a chance to overturn one of the most grotesque gerrymanders drawn by any legislature in the country. Annapolis Democrats, with the aim of giving themselves a 7-1 majority in the state’s House delegation, devised a map in which every district goes through twists and contortions so as to bring together artificial groupings of voters; a federal judge remarked that the Third District resembles “a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.” (Maps here; video.) The map uses tiny strips of land to join unrelated blobs of population across wide expanses, and spreads most districts over multiple expensive media markets, greatly raising the cost of mounting an effective challenge to an incumbent. As an excellent editorial put it the other day in the D.C. Examiner, the whole exercise “totally ignores jurisdictional boundaries, physical barriers and communities of interest.”
If 55,736 valid signatures can be submitted by the end of this month — that’s this weekend — voters will have a chance to correct this travesty in favor of a map with more compact districts that better track natural geographic and political lines and communities of interest. The effort to get that challenge on the ballot is led by Republicans, but it should really appeal to all voters, independents and Democrats included, who prefer good government to partisan shenanigans.
So everyone in our household was looking forward to signing the petition and recommending that our neighbors and friends do so. When we went online to MDPetitions.com, though, our hearts sank. Someone in the Republican camp had had the bright idea of harnessing together the redistricting petition with the petition seeking to reverse the recognition of marriage rights to same-sex couples. If you visit the MDPetitions.com site to sign the one, it will ask you to sign the other too.
Sorry, guys. No matter how much I may agree with you on redistricting, I’m not going to send friends over to your site just to see them urged to sign a petition against the families and futures of gay and lesbian Marylanders. We signed a paper copy of the redistricting petition instead, but without feeling free to send people to the online site, it’s going to be hard for us to lend as much help as we could.
Next time, MDPetitions.com, please think twice before yoking a good cause to a bad.
P.S. I’m told I should address this complaint directly to Del. Neil Parrott (R-Hagerstown), the one behind MDPetitions.com.