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Frederick County may have answer to gerrymandering

With the release of the 2020 census data, the national battle over redistricting has begun in many states, usually accompanied by great weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But not in Frederick County, Maryland.

In most states around the country, politicians from both parties are scheming to reshape voting maps to maximize the number of seats they will have in the U.S. House, in state legislatures and in local governing bodies.

Meanwhile, Frederick County’s nine-member Redistricting Commission is recommending moving two precincts to keep the five County Council districts roughly equal in population. Call it the opposite of gerrymandering.

The Brennan Center for Justice, a law and public policy think-tank at New York University Law School, is one of the leaders in the effort to end gerrymandering.

“Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing districts to favor one political party or racial group, skews election results, makes races less competitive, hurts communities of color, and thwarts the will of the voters. It leads many Americans to feel their voices don’t matter,” the center says on its website.

Voters in Frederick County have seen the results of gerrymandering after the last two national censuses. Democrats who control Maryland’s General Assembly have systematically carved away Republican-held seats in Congress. After the 2010 census, Frederick County was split and linked with Democratic districts in Montgomery County to create two safe Democratic seats where one was formerly held by the GOP.

Maryland Democrats are under pressure to minimize Republican seats, because the GOP is doing exactly the opposite in states where they control the legislature.

In Pennsylvania, after the GOP did redistricting in 2012, Republicans won only 49 percent of the votes statewide in U.S. House races but captured 13 of the 18 House seats. Eventually the state Supreme Court overturned the map.

The work of Frederick County’s Redistricting Commission shows what could be done. The commission strives to keep each of the five districts at about 20 percent of the county population.

As the Brennan Center says when advocating for nonpartisan commissions, voters should choose their politicians, instead of politicians choosing their voters.

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