To the Editor,
Governor Hogan has selected six new members to the Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering. The 6th District that includes all of Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties was found unconstitutional in November by a federal judicial panel. It was determined the current district was drawn to give an unfair advantage to Democratic candidates. A new district map was ordered before the 2020 general election.
Voters generally agree that gerrymandered districts throw elections by mixing in more densely populated areas to swing toward one party or the other. Both parties are guilty of redrawing maps to produce favorable outcomes all across the nation. The current 6th District weaves in parts of Frederick and Montgomery Counties which amount to roughly 50 percent of the voters for the entire district. The known Democratic dominance in the two counties naturally gives leaning toward that party's candidates.
The 6th district is a clear example of how clever manipulation of borders can change election outcomes. But if we’re talking about fairness, why do none of the newly selected six commission members reside in the three core Western Maryland Counties? The Commission is equally represented by two Republicans, two Democrats, and two Unaffiliated members but four of the members live in Montgomery County, one in Anne Arundel, and the other in Howard County. No representation is coming from the counties most impacted by redrawing the district.
Roughly 300 applications to serve the committee were considered. I personally know someone from Garrett County who was a highly qualified applicant to serve on the committee and I’m sure there were others within the district. Montgomery County has already been deciding the 6th District elections and now the same county will be dominating the decision of the new map. This entire districting issue centers around just representation for voters. The Hogan administration is missing the mark beginning with the selection process.
True Western Marylanders should be directly represented on the committee to draw a map that accurately serves its voters and potential candidates. Hogan has an opportunity to create a model for establishing fair and equitable districting. Although he’s advocated for rural communities on other issues, ignoring Garrett, Allegany, and Washington County applicants for this voting district issue is not in good form.
Mark Stutzman, President, Engage Mountain Maryland