Baltimore – A marathon three-day event featuring a 225-mile relay held by foot, bike, kayak, and motorboat will be held around Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District to underscore grassroots opposition to the state being one of the most gerrymandered in the country.
Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland and the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section will sponsor the Sept. 19-21 event, "The Gerrymander Meander," that begins in Baltimore and ends in Annapolis. On arriving in the state capital, petitions demanding that the General Assembly replace gerrymandering with an open and fair drawing of district lines will be presented to the state's gubernatorial nominees or their respective representatives.
Polls show voters overwhelmingly oppose gerrymandering, a system that allows the state party in power to stack the deck by privately mapping out district lines in order to give its voters a majority in as many districts as possible.
The 3rd District zigs and zags -- from Baltimore to Towson to Fort McHenry to Columbia to Olney to Laurel and Annapolis while hop-scotching into sections of Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Baltimore counties.
The first phase of this call-to-action meander, 206 miles, is set to go nonstop for 36 hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. the next day. The following morning the runners will complete the final legs, 19 miles to and around Annapolis. About two dozen runners and bikers, along with support crews, will participate in this the three-day exercise for democracy, with cheering crowds at both the launch event in Baltimore and the closing rally in Annapolis.
“Gerrymandering allows the party in power to stack the deck,” said Carol Ann Hecht, with the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section. “It does so by making its voters a majority in as many districts as possible while concentrating opposition voters in as few districts as it can.”
This often ends up electing lawmakers who for their own survival concentrate on staking out positions that placate their respective political bases rather than reaching out to solve problems by finding common ground with the other party.
State legislators Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Aisha Braveboy of Prince Georges County have offered bills for nonpartisan reform.
"The state and nation we leave our children will be best served by a fair and good government, one where people are represented by a member of their community, giving them a voice. Gerrymandering divides communities and robs them of representative government," said Delegate Ron George (R-30).
Maryland voters want to see action. According to polling commissioned by the Greater Baltimore Committee this spring, 73% of Maryland voters think “having an independent commission draw up voting districts is better than the current system where elected officials redraw voting districts.” This support crosses party lines, with 68% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans agreeing.1
Efforts to draw distorted political lines have certainly skewed electoral results:
- Only about one in 10 Americans approve of Congress. Yet more than 90 percent of U.S. House members seeking another term are expected to win in the November elections, most by wide margins.
- In the 2012 election, Democrats received 1.4 million more votes overall than Republicans did in House races nationwide. Yet largely because of gerrymandering – most of it by Republicans in red states - Republicans won the majority of House seats, 231-201, allowing them to retain control of the chamber.
- In Maryland, Democrats outnumber Republicans in registered voters by a better than two to one margin. More importantly, with Democrats in power in Annapolis, they drew the current district lines in 2010, making Maryland one of the most gerrymandered in the country. On Election Day 2012, Democrats won seven of the state’s eight House seats.
“Voter participation is diminishing just as voter access is increasing. We do worry that the rigged system is driving citizens away from our democracy. This Meander highlights just how contorted our districts have become. It is time to see action in Annapolis to change the process and the maps,” said Susan Cochran, President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland.
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Tame the Gerrymander is a joint effort led by Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, and the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section.
Information is also available at: www.commoncause.org/states/maryland/issues/voting-and-elections/tame-the-gerrymander/
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, 410-303-7954 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Director, Common Cause MD
Ralph Watkins, 301-787-7170, email@example.com
Board Member, League of Women Voters of Maryland
Carol Ann Hecht, 410-280-3746, firstname.lastname@example.org
Annapolis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women
Susan Cochran, 410-269-0232, email@example.com
President, League of Women Voters of Maryland
Office: Common Cause Maryland