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Staying Within the Lines

Mar 09, 2012 12:36AM ● By Anonymous

Lets get the basics out of the way. Redistricting is when our political leaders redraw those lines on the map that decide what groups get to vote for certain elected officials. This happens every ten years – after the latest census reports are released.  And yes, population shifts are one factor when determining the size and breadth of each voting district. After all, periodical redistricting was endorsed almost 50 years ago when the Supreme Court wanted to uphold that “one person, one vote” doctrine and ensure that your vote was worth the same as any other vote. But we cannot be blind to the fact that population shifts are not the only factor.

When redistricting occurs, both Congressional and State Legislature districts can change. And quite frankly, sometimes it is mind-boggling to try to guess the reasons behind some of the new lines that are drawn, such as wealthy areas of Montgomery County suddenly being grouped with citizens in Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties. Things are not always so black and white when it comes to the decisions of our elected officials.Budget. Jobs. The Economy. Those are the big issues right now. Yet we cannot overlook redistricting as an issue too.Those newly drawn lines in October shape the legislature for the next ten years – leading to a shift in who’s in and who’s out at election time.

We vote to ensure that whoever is in office is able to influence the State Legislature – or Congress – with our beliefs and desires. We want OUR elected official to have that strong influence in government. So with the redistricting, how do we know where that strong influence will come from now? We can do the math simply by looking at Baltimore City. With approximately 30,000 residents moving out of the city limits, Baltimore is set to lose some of its elected officials – and influence – with the new redistricting. But this will not be the first time that Charm City has lost some of its charm within the State Capitol. Since the 1970s, Baltimore City has dropped from 44 legislative seats to 24 – and that does not count this year’s reduction.

So that brings us back to the initial question when it comes to redistricting. When you go to vote in April for your Congressman – or in 2014 for your State Legislator – do you even know who is on your ballot? And do you know who your fellow voters will be supporting? Is your neighbor still looking at the same ballot as you?

Redistricting and Reappointment:
2011 Congressional Districts