Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Do you know who you vote with? On losing a chance to have the congressional district map fixed.

Wheaton is in Maryland's 8th Congressional District.  Our national representatives are:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (closest offices to Wheaton are Greenbelt, Hagerstown, & DC)
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (closest offices to Wheaton are Rockville, Bowie, & DC)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr. (office is in Rockville, near the historic downtown)

Here's a map of our oddly shaped, dare I say gerrymandered, district :(

How did things get this way, you ask? By people not noticing incremental changes to the district shapes.  Or by people trusting our reps to do what is best.

Ballot Question 5 in the November 2012 election that would have let Maryland voters reject the newly redistricted map and would have sent a message to our officials that we don't want gerrymandering in our election map.

Less messing around with the district's size and shapes would allow us to vote alongside our geographic neighbors who have similar concerns.

Instead, my vote in Wheaton is lumped in with a voter way up north in rural Maryland on the boarder with Pennsylvania, and in lots of other places I've never set foot.  How are our problems and concerns anywhere near the same? 

Unfortunately, 64% of voters said "yes" on Question 5, approving the new redistricting scheme.  I think this result was due to a lack of publicity about this question and its leading unclear wording on the ballot.  Here is the wording that was used:
"Question 5
Referendum Petition
Congressional Districting Plan (Ch. 1 of the 2011 Special Session)

Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.

For the Referred Law
Against the Referred Law"
Confusing much?  Everyone likes the rule of law.  I think that's why they voted for this referendum   Yes to law and no to some unspecified alternative.

There were items on this ballot that people felt passionate about: namely gay marriage rights and President Obama's reelection   A lot of people just went to the polls to make sure their views on these key issues were heard.  Upon encountering Question 5 they would have been sorely confused if they hadn't read about it before they arrived in the voting booth. Or they have just been brainwashed that our officials will do what is best, so why not approve their district plan.

If a map of the Maryland congressional districts could have been included with the item on the ballot, people would have voted against it. Here is a nice interactive map of the districts from http://www.govtrack.us/.  The map above is a screenshot from that page.  Go ahead, scroll around and look at the amazing ways geographic space is cut up to match like-thinking people with each other.

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