Report: Maryland congressional districts among most spread out in U.S.

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Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Four of Maryland's recently redrawn congressional districts are among the 25 least-compact congressional districts in the country, according to a study expected to be released within the next week.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot on Tuesday condemned the districts as severely gerrymandered and urged voters to overturn them on the ballot next month.

The study, by Philadelphia geospatial analysis firm Azavea, looked at 428 districts across the country and measured their compactness four ways before averaging the scores for each district to get the final ranking. Maryland, Texas and North Carolina were the only states to have four districts in the top 25, according to Daniel McGlone, an analyst who worked on the study.

The ballot language
Question 5
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 (keeps the redistricted map)
Against the Referred Law (throws the map out)
The rankings
Where Maryland's congressional districts rank nationally, from least to most compact
District 3: 3rd
District 6: 9th
District 2: 11th
District 1: 25th
District 4: 44th
District 8: 49th
District 7: 57th
District 5: 151st

In particular, the study named Maryland's 3rd District, which is represented by Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes and includes parts of Silver Spring, Baltimore, Owings Mills and Annapolis, as the third least-compact district in the country, behind only North Carolina's 12th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Greensboro,

and Florida's 5th, on the state's western coast. Maryland's 6th District, which stretches from upper Montgomery County to Western Maryland and is currently represented by Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, is the ninth least compact.

Franchot slammed the districts for being blatant -- and unnecessary -- efforts to secure seats for Democrats, and the redistricting

process for being too political.

"Democrats don't need to do this in order to win," he said, pointing to the state's clear Democratic majority. "In going way over the line with these hardball partisan tactics, they've made Maryland the poster child around the country for everyone who says how ridiculous these gerrymandered districts are."

Instead of letting politicians decide the district, Maryland should set up an independent commission with no politicians on it to design the map, he said, joining a group of 24 Montgomery County and Prince George's County Democrats who called for the same move on Monday.

But Gov. Martin O'Malley has been a firm defender of the map.

Franchot was not involved in drawing the map and doesn't know the kind of analysis that went into developing it, said O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. More than 70 percent of the state's population stayed in the same district between the old map and the new one, she said.

According to the governor's chief legislative officer, Joseph Bryce, population growth drove the changes that did occur.

Maryland's geography also makes compact districts difficult to draw, he said. "Anything that you draw is going to look not as compact as if you're divvying up populations in Colorado."

But Maryland's districts became less compact when they were redrawn last year, McGlone said.

"They need to be compact so people know where the district is," Franchot said. "They need to have like-minded communities so we don't have districts like Congressman Sarbanes' [3rd District], which looks like someone threw a bunch of blood up on the wall."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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