Republicans and some minority groups oppose the plan, calling it a gerrymander. They collected more than 59,000 signatures to put the redistricting plan on the ballot for the first time in more than half a century.
The referendum presents a conundrum for many in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. Polls show wide distaste in both parties for gerrymandering. But Maryland Democrats agree that their greater good would be served by unseating one of the state’s two Republican congressmen — no matter the means.
Luckily for conflicted Maryland Democrats, they might have it both ways.
Under Question 5, Maryland voters theoretically would send state lawmakers back to the drawing board to come up with a better map than the one a federal judge decried as legal but a “Rorschach-like eyesore” that splits communities of like interests.
But lawyers and leading state Democrats say the vote will be no more than symbolic. There is nothing in the referendum preventing O’Malley and the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, from reenacting the same map next year.
And nullifying it Nov. 6, they say, will not undo the results of this year’s congressional races.
The map has altered the political landscape, particularly in the new 1st and 6th congressional districts, which are held by the only two Republicans in the Maryland House delegation.
The 1st District, on the Eastern Shore, was one of the nation’s most competitive just two years ago. The incumbent is Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Cockeysville. But with the new map, it was packed with extra Republicans from Baltimore County.
This was done to keep incumbent Democrats safe around Baltimore and to make the 6th District in Western Maryland, long held by Rep. Roscoe P. Bartlett (R), majority Democratic.
Wendy Rosen won the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District but was forced to end her campaign abruptly after party officials disclosed that they had learned that she had previously committed fraud, voting in recent presidential contests in Maryland and Florida.
The party conducts only scant background checks on its candidates. But its seeming uninterest in her, and its lack of knowledge about her activities in Florida, revealed how officials viewed the new 1st District as all but a lost cause for Democrats.
Then there’s Bartlett’s 6th Congressional District, which, under the new map, stretches nearly 200 miles, from the West Virginia line to the Capital Beltway. The district takes in nearly 350,000 mostly Democratic voters in Frederick and Montgomery counties.