Maryland’s 3rd congressional district, the most gerrymandered in the nation, is a Rorschach test in the most literal sense. The Washington Post called it a “crazy quilt.” A local politician compared it to “blood spatter from a crime scene.” A federal judge said it reminded him of a “broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.” DCist suggested we ditch metaphor altogether and change the word “gerrymander” to “Marymander.”
It would be an apt name. Though both parties carve up states in partisan self-interest, the Democrats dominating Maryland’s assembly are particularly aggressive — and creative — when it comes to the electoral map. In 2002, they shifted thousands of black voters from Al Wynn’s majority-minority District 4 into District 8, just to oust longtime Republican Representative Connie Morella. In 2012, they knocked out 86-year old incumbent Roscoe Bartlett by chopping his district in half and gluing it to a wealthy Democratic suburb near D.C. Bartlett lost by 20 points. Democrats now control seven of eight House seats.
Miffed, the GOP put the new borders to a vote with a referendum question on Tuesday’s ballot. Many Democrats shared the feeling that the gerrymandering had gone too far, but Question 5 was always something of a long shot. Nobody gets that passionate about redistricting. Despite Washington Post and Baltimore Sun editorials begging voters to undo the gerrymander, Marylanders upheld the law by the same margin that they voted for Obama.
Since the ballot lacked pictures, voters did not get to see the most persuasive bit of evidence: the twisted 3rd District belonging to John Sarbanes, which touches upon the metro areas of D.C., Baltimore, and Annapolis. Comedy Central’s election blog Indecision recently called it the ugliest district in the nation. A geospatial analysis firm named it the least compact district in the nation on two of four measures. The firm also ranks Maryland as the most gerrymandered state.
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