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- Maryland Board of Elections certifies election on July 10, 2014
- Maryland Elections ---2016
Tuesday February 26th, 2013 6:30 - 8 pm
- General Meeting of Get Money Out - Maryland (GMOM):
PRESENTATION / DISCUSSION ON MONEY IN POLITICS: ‘OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFORM
FROM DC TO ANNAPOLIS’
Jennifer Bevan-Dengal, Executive Director, Common Cause – Maryland, and
Michael W. Lore, Citizen activist with ties to Common Cause, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers and the Maryland General Assembly.
The Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 E. University Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21218-2437 (with parking lot).
Sign-up on the Facebook Event Page.
View the Flier.
I HAVE BEEN DISAPPOINTED ON POLICY STANCES TAKEN BY PDA IN THE PAST SO DO NOT EMBRACED THEM AS TRUE FISCAL PROGRESSIVES, BUT THEY DO ONE OF THE BEST JOBS IN MOST ISSUES. COME OUT TO SEE HOW THEY WILL APPROACH THE COMING YEAR!!
Progressive Central PartyPublic ·
By Progressive Democrats of America
- Saturday, January 19, 2013
- 5:00pm until 7:00pm
- Join Progressive Democrats of America and Friends for a Party in Washington, D.C.
An Evening of Community, Comedy, and Celebration to help build PDA in 2013!
Be treated to a night of laughs courtesy of
AS WE SAID, WE ARE LOSING OUR MEDIA MARKET AND AS WE DO WE BECOME LESS AND LESS ABLE TO HAVE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS......THESE ARE THIRD WAY CORPORATE DEMOCRATS THAT ARE DOING THIS.
No More Media for Murdoch Rupert Murdoch — the guy who’s under investigation in England for phone hacking, influence peddling and bribery — wants to get his mitts on the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune1,2. These are the major papers in the nation's second- and third-largest cities (where, incidentally, Murdoch already owns TV stations).
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to change the agency’s ownership rules to pave the way for Murdoch to get exactly what he wants. Worse, Genachowski and Murdoch are keeping this all very hush-hush, hoping you won't notice.3
These changes wouldn’t just benefit Murdoch. If the FCC proposal passes, one company could own the major daily newspaper, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in your town. And that one company could be your Internet provider, too. What is the FCC thinking?!?
We can still stop the agency from taking this perilous step — but we have less than a month to do it.
By taking action, you’re joining a movement of millions who are working to stop big media from getting even bigger. Please take action today.
TAKE TIME TO LET YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS NEED TO KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF OUR ALREADY LIMITED DEMOCRATIC PROCESS!!!!!
A referendum on referendums? Our view: The criticism by Gov. O'Malley and others in Annapolis that petitioning a law to referendum has become 'too easy' is a bit too easy, too
1:00 p.m. EST, November 12, 2012 Baltimore Sun
Last week was a very good one for Maryland's governor. He helped President Barack Obama win another term, increased the number of Democrats representing his state in Congress while also getting all his party's incumbents re-elected and went 7-for-7 on ballot questions, including the history-making same-sex marriage law. So perhaps he was feeling his oats.
At least that would explain why Gov. Martin O'Malley so rashly told reporters — practically before the unplugged voting machines had gone cold — that he'd like the General Assembly to consider making it more difficult for a Maryland law to be petitioned to referendum. "It's probably been made a little too easy," he said. And others in the legislature are reportedly considering making changes to do that very thing.
To which we would say: Let's not discourage participatory democracy quite so quickly. There might actually be something to it.
Clearly, what concerns Mr. O'Malley and others are the efforts of Del. Neil Parrott, the Washington County Republican who brought referendums to the Internet age. Instead of relying entirely on the manpower-intensive process of collecting signatures on the street, he set up a website that made the signature collection process more convenient and accurate.
Maryland already sets a fairly high standard for voter petitions. The state does not, for instance, allow for those hastily arrived at, and often contradictory, voter-initiated laws that have bedeviled California for a generation. Maryland only allows referendums to overturn laws enacted by the General Assembly, and it doesn't allow taxes or other budget-related matters to be brought to referendum at all. It takes tens of thousands of signatures for a statewide referendum (with a certain amount of geographic balance, too). Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals has been pretty persnickety about how signatures had to comply precisely with voter registration rolls (a person registered as John R. Smith can't sign a petition John Smith, for instance), all of which is why there were so few referendums in the past.
This year, only three of the seven questions on the ballot were brought by petition. And one can argue that two of the matters — same-sex marriage and the Dream Act — were controversial enough that they'd likely have been petitioned successfully without Internet assistance. That leaves just one, congressional redistricting, that was clearly helped by Mr. Parrott's MDPetitions.com. Once it was put on the ballot, however, it was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters, so it's presence ultimately had no effect whatsoever.
That doesn't sound like much of a crisis to us. Perhaps Mr. Parrott and his fellow Republicans plan to use the petition process simply to throw a wrench into the gears of state government, delaying laws from taking effect for months if not years at a time whenever possible. As we've noted before, that doesn't seem like much of a strategy for building up the beleaguered Republican Party in Maryland that ought to be focused on finding and supporting viable candidates for statewide office. And in any case, that approach probably seems a lot less attractive after going 0-3.
We don't blame supporters of the Dream Act and same-sex marriage for lamenting the inconvenience of a referendum. After working so hard for so long to win General Assembly approval, they had to mount expensive campaigns to keep the laws on the books. But not to be too Pollyannaish about this, what they ended up with — laws that everyone now knows have the support of a majority of voters — actually benefits their causes. Democrats emerged stronger, too. The argument that they are "out of touch" with the electorate doesn't hold much water when voters signed off on their work product (including a congressional redistricting map so gerrymandered into blobs and wisps that it might have better served as a Rorschach test).
We'd rather have Mr. O'Malley and others, Democrat or Republican, looking for ways to encourage public participation in government decisions rather than looking into ways to discourage it. Obviously, a balance must be struck over how difficult it is to petition a new law to ballot. Too easy and people would do it on everything just to be contrarian; too hard and a state already dominated by one party would truly be without a viable option to express dissent. What Maryland has now seems entirely reasonable and perhaps improved by Mr. Parrott's efforts. Legislators are welcome to explore the subject when they reconvene in January, but they should be reluctant to deny voters this periodic chance to make their voices heard.
THIS IS A LONG, BUT INFORMATIVE ARTICLE ON THE REDISTRICTING ISSUE. THIS IS HUGE EVEN AS IT SEEMS INSIGNIFICANT. IF YOU THINK THESE GUYS ARE HARD TO BE RID OF NOW, THEY ARE TRYING TO MAKE IT HARDER. AS I SAY IN MY COMMENT, IT IS NOT JUST CROSS-PARTY, IT IS INTRA-PARTY AND THE GOAL IS NO ELECTIONS AT ALL AS PARTIES DISAPPEAR.
I don't know if you can say it isn't evil given the state of the union these days. We have lost our democracy and this is just one more step in closing free and fair elections. In Maryland we are seeing, as with other Third Way corporate states, where not only are Republicans getting sidelined by redistricting but fiscal progressives are as well. We know that there is movement on foot by the 1% to declare American politics dead and part of that has to do with the new election races that open the field in elections by 1st, 2nd. 3rd vote getters rather than parties facing off. This is of course designed to shed the 'radical' right and left. Both of these groups are the base of these parties of course and it is the 'moderates' that are making politics apolitical/corporate. So when Democratic Maryland fails to give a minority district according to census, it does so because minorities, in this case black voters are fiscal progressives. At the same time a district that is very fiscally progressive is redrawn so it includes more Republicans, moving the district to the center.
The goal in all this is to marginalize what is the supermajority of the voting base. It is happening on local redistricting as well as even middle-class communities are tied to huge corporate anchors that dominate policy.
Redistricting: GOP and Dems alike have cloaked the process in secrecy Calls for reform have gone largely unheeded, as legislators mainipulate Census numbers for partisan gain
By Nicholas Kusnetz OPINION: Democratic process
Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Obey testifies at legislative hearing on Republican redistricting plans on July 13. 2011, in Madison, Wis. Scott Bauer/AP Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, holds a news conference at the Arizona Capitol Nov.1, 2011 announcing his dismay at the handling of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission by legislative Republicans. Ross D. Franklin/AP When state legislators in Wisconsin began work last year on a plan for redistricting, the once-a-decade process when states draw new district maps for Congress and state legislatures, they found themselves presented with non-disclosure agreements requiring them to keep their deliberations confidential.
In Ohio, the Republican National Committee kicked off a training session on redistricting for state leaders by telling them to “keep it secret.”
Democratic leaders in Illinois held dozens of public hearings after promising a more open process. But all of the meetings came before the congressional redistricting maps were released, and the Democratic majority quickly approved their own proposals with little opportunity for the public, or Republicans, to voice concerns.
In the lead up to the most recent round of redistricting, which began last year with the release of data from the 2010 census, politicians, advocates and “good government” groups nationwide pushed to open the process to citizens and allow for broader debate than in the past. The idea was that a transparent process would lead to maps that made more sense geographically and better reflected voters’ interests.
But with few exceptions, the political parties in control of statehouses rammed their own partisan proposals through the legislatures as quickly as possible, leaving little more than nominal opportunities for the public to influence the process. In several states, legislatures outsourced the actual work to lawyers and used claims of attorney-client privilege to further exclude the public.
Earlier this year, the State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven analysis of state government accountability, reviewed each state’s redistricting process for transparency and potential for public input. Just 18 states received A’s; 24 received a D or an F.
Advocates, citizens and political parties have filed 194 lawsuits challenging congressional or state legislative lines in 41 states. Courts drew the final maps in nine states, either because the legislature’s maps were deemed discriminatory or because lawmakers could not agree on a final plan. Lawsuits are still pending in eight states. While the lines in those states are likely set for this election, the lawsuits could force new maps for 2014.
Despite all the litigation, experts say, the end result this time won’t be much different than in the past, when a procedure intended to assure that each American receives equal representation is instead used by Republicans and Democrats alike to game the system to their advantage. Republicans controlled four times as many state legislatures as did Democrats, but after the GOP won huge gains in 2010, there wasn’t much room to increase their advantage. The party’s intent instead, experts say, was to secure the seats they already have. According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice,part of the New York University School of Law, Republicans pushed 11 additional districts to their advantage, meaning 241 seats now lean Republican, one fewer than the party currently holds as the result of a big victory in 2010.
Often, neither party can gain many seats overall through redistricting, so both seek to protect their incumbents, creating safer seats, less competitive elections and, some say, more partisan politicians.
According to an analysis by Fair Vote, a nonprofit that advocates for election reform, the two parties have been so successful that only 74 congressional races, or 17 percent of seats, remain competitive, 15 fewer than in 2010.
To achieve safe seats, politicians sometimes drew splotchy, disjointed districts that carve up neighborhoods, throw together disparate groups whose concerns have little in common and make little sense in terms of representative democracy. Democrats working on Maryland’s 3rd district, a recent Washington Post editorial said, “split, severed or dissected” 42 of its precincts in an effort to cobble together a Democratic-leaning map. Two chunks of the district are not even connected to the rest. Opponents placed a measure on the November ballot that would overturn the state’s new districts.
The system “turns democracy on its head,” said Gerry Hebert, a former Justice Department lawyer who is now executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan public interest group. He also runs a private practice focusing on redistricting and election law, and is currently arguing challenges to new maps in several states, including Texas. “Instead of voters choosing their representatives, which is how I understand it’s supposed to work, you have representatives choosing their voters.”
The 'Gerry-mander'The process of drawing district lines for partisan gain is as old as the nation. One early attempt was driven by Elbridge Gerry, who as governor of Massachusetts approved new district lines in 1812 to solidify his party’s reign over the state Senate. A cartoonist chose one particularly awkward looking district, stretched to pick-and-choose sympathetic voters, and drew it as a giant salamander, naming it the “Gerry-mander.”
Redistricting was not carried out consistently, however, leaving districts of vastly different size. By the 1960s, Los Angeles County’s population was 422 times greater than that of California’s least populous district, yet each had only one representative in Congress.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that states must redraw their congressional and state legislative districts every ten years, after release of new census data, to ensure that everyone receives roughly equal representation. But the high court largely allowed the states to decide how they would go about it.
While most states have general guidelines for drawing new districts, including that they must be relatively compact in shape, most allow the legislature to draw lines largely as its members please. The only strict federal law, coming from the Voting Rights Act, is that district maps must adequately represent the state’s minority voters. The idea is to prevent legislators from packing minorities into a small number of districts or spreading groups across too many to dilute their vote. In several states with a history of discrimination, the federal government must approve (“preclear”) new maps.
Some states, including California and Arizona, have placed redistricting in the hands of nonpartisan or bipartisan independent commissions. Some have independent advisory boards. This time around, greater access to computers and open source technology enabled the public to at least try to influence the process like never before. Michael McDonald, an associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University, helped create public competitions in several states where students and others used software to generate their own district maps.
But these efforts largely failed to influence the final plans that states adopted, McDonald said. And in some cases, legislators only increased their efforts to maintain control and avoid public participation.
“You shine that spotlight,” he said, “and the cockroaches just scurry further into the shadows.”
With few exceptions, excluding the public and intentionally drawing districts for partisan gain remains the norm, and remains perfectly legal.
‘Ignore the Public’Wisconsin Republicans were presented with a rare opportunity in 2011. For the first time in decades, one party controlled both houses of the Legislature and held the governor’s office in a redistricting year, enabling them to run the entire process.
The public was excluded. To help draw the maps, Republican leaders hired a law firm that required all legislators who wanted to discuss the plans to sign a confidentiality agreement. Legislative aides produced talking points instructing legislators to focus on what happened in their closed door sessions before the release. “Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room,” the memo advised. “Ignore the public comments.”
Leaders published their proposals on July 8 and held only one public meeting, five days later. The plans had been ready at least a couple of weeks earlier, but the leaders would not even show them to many legislators. On July 19, the Senate approved the maps on a party line vote. The state’s redistricting process received an F from the State Integrity Investigation.
“The end result was a partisan gerrymander, pure and simple,” said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a state watchdog group. “It was a highly secretive and highly partisan process.”
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, whose office reportedly produced the talking points, did not return calls and emails to his office and staff requesting comment.
Not until a group of citizens and legislators sued were documents released showing the concerted effort to exclude the public. A recent editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reacted to reports the law firm hadn’t even turned over all the documents that the court requested, calling the Republicans’ politicking “simply outrageous.”
The extreme secrecy was part of an effort to approve new maps before the state’s recall elections, when Republicans ultimately lost control of the Senate. Legislative leaders were so intent on beating the recall that they actually rewrote a state law preventing them from drawing state-wide lines before local governments had drawn their own. The final lines plucked two Democratic-leaning cities from the district of a vulnerable GOP freshman and tacked them onto the left-leaning 3rd district. The result is an island of blue surrounded by Republican districts. The lines are being challenged in state court.
‘Lip service’While Wisconsin’s process was especially controversial, the state is hardly alone. The State Integrity Investigation conducted dozens of interviews across the country and collected information on how each state handles redistricting. About half of the states provide little or no opportunity for public involvement, resulting in an opaque and often partisan process with little or no transparency. Several states charted a route similar to Wisconsin’s, using claims of attorney-client privilege to try to shield the process from public view.
In the state-by-state report cards, twenty-one received F’s on redistricting: Kentucky, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Ohio, Alabama, Minnesota, Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, West Virginia, Alaska, New York, Oklahoma, Maine and Utah. Grades of D or D- went to Maryland, Arkansas and Nevada. (Seven states have only one congressional representative. For those, the rankings focused on state legislative redistricting only.)
In Tennessee, legislative leaders promised “the most open, interactive and transparent” redistricting process in the state’s history. But Republican leaders did not release any information on the plans until the end of the process, about a week before they adopted the proposals. The party did not release full, detailed maps of state legislative districts until two weeks after the legislature had approved them.
Hebert said that in most states, calls from legislators for more transparency have led to nothing.
“It’s lip service,” he said. “They couldn’t care less what people say.”
One particularly blatant example occurred in 2003 in Texas, when Republicans, who were redrawing the state’s district lines after the party won a majority in the statehouse, convened in a central office.
“They actually took brown paper and pasted it up on the glass wall of the legislature offices so nobody could look in,” Hebert said.
Choosing VotersWhile to some it seems unethical, many states allow legislators to draw maps for political gain and to protect incumbents. The Supreme Court has allowed plaintiffs to challenge maps based on partisan gerrymandering, but it’s never ruled in favor of such a claim. In effect, said Justin Levitt, a redistricting expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, the court has said that too much partisan redistricting may be illegal, but it hasn’t said what would qualify as too much.
Two of the most dramatic examples of partisanship this last cycle were Illinois and North Carolina. Illinois presented Democrats with one of their only shots at reversing GOP gains from 2010, when the party won 11 of the state’s 19 House seats. Democrats control the Legislature and hold the governorship, the first time that’s happened in the state since 1970. After promising an open process, the legislature held 31 public hearings across the state on plans for the state Legislature. But only three of those occurred after legislative maps were released. Democrats held no meetings after publishing the congressional map, which came just four days before the final vote approving the plans.
Democrats were able to give themselves 11 safe seats, three more than they had before, even as the state lost a seat due to population shifts. They left Republicans with just two safe seats, with an additional five considered balanced, according to an analysis by Fair Vote. Courts rejected several challenges to the maps.
In North Carolina, however, Republicans made up for these losses. As detailed in the October issue of The Atlantic, state leaders hired Tom Hofeller, a seasoned GOP mapmaker, to help gain control of the state’s congressional delegation without running afoul of the Voting Rights Act; the state is among those that must submit maps for federal approval. Hofeller concentrated the state’s Democrats into a handful of districts, removing left-leaning enclaves from seats where Republicans might otherwise face tough challenges. The result is a map that favors Republicans 10-3 by snatching away a Democratic-leaning seat and eliminating the two toss-ups. The Department of Justice approved the maps, but a separate lawsuit claiming racial gerrymandering is still pending and could force new maps for 2014.
Even though state legislatures generally have the authority to draw new maps, it is an open secret that members of Congress often pick and choose where their district lines will lie. In Ohio, emails released in a lawsuit show that members of House Speaker John Boehner’s political team were in close contact with state leaders. In one note, state Senate President Thomas Niehaus told Tom Whatman, a member of Boehner’s team, that he would not approve a map without Boehner’s support. In another email, Whatman requested that state leaders extend one district line to include the headquarters of a top campaign donor to that district’s representative, Jim Renacci. The map also split the city of Toledo into three districts, a move that the deputy mayor said rendered the town “politically irrelevant.”
In testimony before the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee last year, Richard Gunther, a professor of political science at Ohio State, called the effort “the most grotesque partisan gerrymander,” he had ever seen. In an email message, Gunther added that Republicans are likely to hold 12 of the state’s 16 congressional seats even though the party rarely garners much more than half of the statewide vote.
Boehner’s political office did not return a request for comment for this story. Neither did the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican National Committee or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
A Mess in the Lone Star StateWhile most state legislatures operate for political gain, few can top the baldly partisan warfare in Texas. It was there, in 2003, that Democratic legislators fled the state in a failed attempt to prevent a vote on new district maps. The new lines helped flip the state’s congressional delegation in the 2004 election to majority Republican.
This year Republicans sought to hold those gains. But the party faced a problem it had experienced in the previous round as well: a growing Latino population that tends to favor Democrats. GOP leaders thought they’d found a way to keep their hold on power, but their tactics kicked off a complex web of lawsuits that eventually forced the state to delay its primaries from March to May.
The lawsuits uncovered documents showing exactly how Republicans tried to defy the demographic trend. In one email, a lawyer hired by the state’s GOP congressional delegation described how state legislators could remove Latinos who are more likely to vote from the district of a vulnerable Republican and switch them with Latinos who tend not to vote, taken from a Democratic-leaning district. The result would be a “nudge factor” that would keep Latino populations the same, thereby avoiding Voting Rights Act violations, while essentially weakening the power of the Latino vote.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders were granting requests from congressmen in Washington, D.C., to tweak their districts to include a country club or the school that one congressman’s “grand babies” attended.
State House Speaker Joe Straus declined to answer specific questions about redistricting but said in a statement that the maps reflect population changes. Opponents have charged that the GOP plan failed to add majority Latino districts even though Latinos account for 65 percent of the state’s population gain since 2000.
Texas Democrats also tried to shunt Latino voters out of districts where they thought they might pose a threat in primary elections, said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at MALDEF, a Latino civil rights group that filed lawsuits in Texas and other states.
“Being a voting rights lawyer in Texas redistricting is like driving a very small car down the highway between two semis,” she said, “and those semis are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.”
Ultimately, federal courts rejected some of the new districts, saying they did not adequately represent Latinos. The 2012 election will use lines that were drawn as a compromise at the direction of a federal court, but the state will have to draw new lines for 2014.
Taxpayers Foot the BillLitigation has become a necessary part of the redistricting process, but it’s one that is costing taxpayers millions of dollars each cycle. Gerry Hebert remembers seeing Tom Hofeller, the GOP redistricting expert, give a presentation on preparing for redistricting several years ago that illustrates the point. “He has a slide that says,‘never travel without counsel.’ I think that’s great advice, being a lawyer myself, but the meter’s running.”
While no one has estimated the total cost of all this litigation — with 194 suits filed in this cycle and 65 still active — the tab can run into the millions for each state. According to The Texas Tribune, legal fees had already cost taxpayers in that state close to $1.5 million as of April, and litigation is ongoing. In New Mexico, where a court drew the final lines, lawsuits cost the state $5.7 million. In Wisconsin, where litigation is not yet resolved, fees have topped $1 million.
Perales of MALDEF said the case of Texas shows how wasteful the system can be. Even though her organization and others work with legislators as they are drawing the maps to try to avoid litigation, political leaders continue to push plans that exclude minorities and the opposing party. “When the legislators hear our sound legal advice and they flaunt the rules, nobody can be surprised when we bring successful litigation,” she said. When challengers do win, states generally must pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees, too. “It’s very irresponsible for a state like Texas to adopt a plan that’s discriminatory.”
Hebert said majority parties often waste taxpayer money by forcing cases to trial rather than settling them. But with the system as it is, with little guidance from the Supreme Court on how far a political party can go to protect its incumbents, he stressed that litigation continues to be an important last resort. “Sometimes the courts are the only place you can have a fair shake,” he said.
Efforts at reformA few states have attempted to address the partisan excesses by removing redistricting from the control of the legislature. In 2008, California voters passed a referendum creating an independent citizen commission to handle redistricting.
In previous cycles, the two major parties had struck an informal deal protecting incumbents on each side. This time, a group of eight citizen-commissioners held dozens of public meetings to help shape their proposals.
Advocates for redistricting reform have praised California, but it’s unclear how much the new system really changed the results. Democrats will likely maintain their dominance of the state’s congressional delegation, but most experts agree the new districts have put more heat on incumbents in a state where they have won 253 out of 255 races in the past five elections. In a well-publicized case, the new map has pitted two sitting Democratic congressmen against each other (voters also passed a law the puts the two most popular candidates from the primaries on the final ballot, regardless of party affiliation).
It’s also proven impossible to remove politics completely. A probe by the investigative news outlet ProPublica found that Democrats manipulated the system by having fake citizens groups represent the party’s interests at public meetings. Loyola’s Justin Levitt said it’s unlikely the Democrats’ tactics fooled the commissioners. He acknowledges the new system is still open to political influence, but he said it’s far better than the alternative and that it helped make more competitive races this year.
In Arizona too, politics intruded on what is supposed to be an independent commission. In 2000, voters there created a bipartisan commission consisting of two representatives of each party and an independent chair. Last year, as the commission was drawing new lines, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer sought to impeach both Democrats and the independent chair, Colleen Mathis, claiming they were favoring Democrats and operating in secret. The state senate did vote to remove Mathis in November, but a state court stepped in later that month and overturned the decision, returning Mathis to the position. The commission did approve final maps in January, though several lawsuits challenging the maps and the process remain unsettled.
“You’re never going to completely wash politics out of the process,” said McDonald, of George Mason University.
While the legislature in Florida maintains control of redistricting, voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2010 prohibiting lawmakers from implementing district lines that benefit a particular party or incumbent. The law opened the way for court challenges based on partisan gerrymandering, and opponents have done just that, with a trial scheduled to begin in February. The Brennan Center’s analysis found that Democrats gained two seats in the state even though Republicans controlled the process.
Advocates for reform stress that their best opportunity may be in the next year or two, when memories of the partisan squabbles are fresh and, importantly, when the next redistricting is years away. That means that state legislators who support reform may no longer be in office next time. If reforms lead to more competitive races, at least it will be someone else running in those races.
A coalition of advocacy groups in Ohio has placed an initiative on the November ballot that would create a system similar to California’s. Opponents have said the proposal would waste millions of taxpayer dollars.
Levitt of Loyola Law School and others say there’s no single system that works for every state, but the key is to ensure that lawmakers don’t have free rein to draw their own lines. As long as legislators can work the system in their favor and help keep their own jobs, they will.
“It’s not necessarily evil,” he said. “It’s natural.”
I WANT TO POINT OUT THE CONTROVERSY ON REDISTRICTING THAT EXISTED LAST YEAR. MINORITY GROUPS WERE JUST AS VOCAL AS REPUBLICANS IN THAT THE REDRAW FAILED TO SECURE THE NECESSARY REFLECTION OF INCREASED MINORITY GROWTH IN THE STATE. WHAT THE REDRAW DID WAS GERRYMANDER TO GREAT EXTENT DISTRICTS WITH A CLEAR INTENT TO PROTECT INCUMBENTS. THIS HURTS MINORITIES WHO WILL BE OVER 50% OF THE POPULATION THIS NEXT DECADE, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY TO THE ELECTION PROCESS, IT WORKS TO KEEP INCUMBENTS IN OFFICE BY SLICING NEIGHBORHOODS IN WAYS THAT WILL AID INCUMBENT REELECTION.
NOW, AS SOMEONE WHO FAMOUSLY SAYS 'VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!' YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS REDISTRICTING WORKS AGAINST THAT. THIS IS YET ANOTHER WAY THE POLITICAL LEADERS ARE TRYING TO SEAL INCUMBENTS IN PLACE. LOOK AT THE REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE.....MIKE BUSCH AND MIKE MILLER.....THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY LEADERS FOR LIFE WHO FAMOUSLY STATED 'WE DON'T NEED NEW PEOPLE, WE ARE DOING JUST FINE'. OH YEAH?
Democrats in Montgomery, Prince George's fail to support governor's congressional map
Baltimore Business Journal Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 5:39am EDT
Gov. Martin O'Malley's controversial congressional map has lost support of Democrats in the state's two largest counties -- Montgomery and Prince George's -- the Baltimore Sun reported.
The Democratic Central Committees for the two counties decided not to make a recommendation to voters about whether or not they should vote for the map, which is on the Nov. 6 Election Day ballot.
YOU WILL SEE THAT THE POLITICIANS IN BALTIMORE ARE NOT AMONG THE GROUP PROTESTING THE REWRITE OF THE DISTRICT MAP. THE REASONS ARE VARIED, BUT THE POLITICIANS LIKED THAT PRISONERS WERE MOVED TO THERE HOME ADDRESS FROM WHAT USED TO BE A REQUIREMENT TO VOTE IN THEIR PRISON ADDRESS. EVERYONE KNEW THAT THIS PRISON ADDRESS WAS A JUSTICE ISSUE AND RESOLVING THAT ISSUE WAS NOT A GAIN FOR MINORITY COMMUNITIES.....IT WAS A GAIN FOR THE INCUMBENTS. HAVING DISTRICTS THAT ARE NOT GERRYMANDERED ARE FAR MORE IMPORTANT. IF YOU NOTICE, IT IS THESE UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES IN BALTIMORE THAT ARE ATTACHED TO A POWERFUL AFFLUENT NEIGHBORHOOD THAT DILUTES ALL THE POLITICAL POWER FROM THE POOR COMMUNITIES. HISPANIC COMMUNITIES ARE EQUALLY GERRYMANDERED TO DILUTE POWER.
Redistricting In Maryland Sparks Minority Debate
October 16, 2011 2:17 PM
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s congressional redistricting process this year has shown it’s getting harder for Democrats to make gains against Republicans in the state’s eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While that’s partly because there are only two Republicans left on opposite ends of the state, state officials working on a new congressional map for the next 10 years also have seen spirited interest by minorities seeking greater representation as a result of minority population growth over the past decade.
Maryland currently has two majority-minority congressional districts, represented by Rep. Donna Edwards and Rep. Elijah Cummings, both of whom are Democratic African-Americans.
Demographic changes over the last decade have prompted minority groups to call for a third majority-minority district.
The map has drawn the interest of groups representing minorities this year, after the 2010 census showed all of the state’s population gain over the past decade resulted from increases in minorities. Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, for the first time has more minority residents than white residents, with 40.7 percent identifying themselves as black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander or an ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white.
Elbridge James, political action chairman for the NAACP’s Maryland State Conference, said the African-American community, as well as the Latino and Asian communities in Maryland, are paying much more attention to the redistricting process this time than in past decades.
“We’ve become more politically aware of the consequences of relying on somebody else to look at your vested interests, and that’s a fact,” James said Saturday while standing outside a closed meeting of the Legislative Black Caucus in Annapolis, where black lawmakers discussed the proposed redistricting map.
The caucus had been expected to vote on supporting the redistricting plan, but the vote was postponed until Monday.
Lawmakers leaving the meeting were not eager to talk in detail about happened.
“There was a lot of discussion over the governor’s map, and people had various opinions,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the caucus.
Edwards, who attended the meeting, has contended minority representation appears to have been sacrificed to both national and statewide political interests. Edwards would lose all the Montgomery County portion of her current district, as a large portion of the state’s largest county is shifted into Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s district.
“I understand and share the political interests that are at stake, both nationally and in our state,” Edwards said in a statement last week. “Nonetheless, I cannot support this plan in its current form given that minority representation interests appear to have been sacrificed for these political interests.”
Edwards argued in a statement last week that the map means majority-minority Montgomery will likely be unable to have minority representation for the next decade in any of the three proposed new congressional districts that will be in the county.
The debate has even prompted the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, which is based in heavily Democratic Prince George’s County, to sign on to a Republican plan that would include three majority-minority districts.
The added focus on minority concerns has complicated the redistricting process for a Democratic governor who is aiming to add another seat to the Democrats’ 6-2 edge over Republicans.
It was easier a decade ago, when there was a 4-4 split with Republicans. But now, with one Republican seat in the western part of the state and the other in the east, it’s a tricky puzzle to add Democratic voters in those districts without causing significant heartburn to at least some of the six Democrats in the middle of the state. That has been evident in the past week, as some have sought changes to a recommended map submitted by the governor’s redistricting advisory panel.
The governor’s advisory panel decided against trying to make the 1st Congressional district easier for a Democrat, even though Republican Rep. Andy Harris is in his first term in the district that includes all of the Eastern Shore. Instead, the panel made big changes to the 6th Congressional district, which has been held by Bartlett since 1993.
O’Malley will formally submit his congressional redistricting proposal to the General Assembly on Monday for a special session, but the proposal will be coming after a week of private meetings with lawmakers and representatives from minority groups with concerns about the map.
The O’Malley administration made its map public Saturday evening on the Maryland Department of Planning’s website with only marginal changes to the plan, mostly to put some parts of the 6th and 8th Congressional districts back where they were.
“The changes we did were very small and around the edges,” Joseph Bryce, O’Malley’s chief legislative officer, said Saturday. “Nothing fundamental.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
COME OUT TO SHOUT OUT FOR THIS MUCH NEEDED CHARTER AMENDMENT!
City of Baltimore Legislative File ID 12-0093 display printable version email Type: Mayor and City Council Res. Status: 3rd Reader, final passage Enactment Date: Enactment No.: Title: Charter Amendment - Minority Party Representation on Boards and Commissions FOR the purpose of allowing voters registered as unaffiliated or as third party members to sit on City boards and commissions as minority party representatives; defining a certain term; generally relating to minority party representation on City boards and commissions; and submitting this amendment to the qualified voters of the City for adoption or rejection. Controlling Body: City Council Introduced: 6/4/2012 Version: 0 Final Action: Contact: 9:45 AM Name: Charter Amendment - Minority Party Representation on Boards and Commissions Hearing Date: 6/12/2012 Requester: Sponsors: Mary Pat Clarke, William H. Cole, IV, Sharon Green Middleton, Carl Stokes, James B. Kraft, President Young, Bill Henry, Brandon M. Scott, Nick Mosby, William "Pete" Welch, Edward L. Reisinger, Robert W. Curran, Warren Branch Attachments: Legislative File Text
Law - 12-0093.pdf
12-0093 - 1st Reader.pdf
Finance - 12-0093.pdf
Bd. of Elections - 12-0093.pdf
BOE - 12-0093.pdf Next Meeting: 6/25/2012 City Council meeting at 2:00 PM in City Hall
ANOTHER CASE OF SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT BECAUSE THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT IS UNDERFUNDED?
Even though what happened in Wisconsin last week was disappointing, we should hold our heads high. Progressives from around Wisconsin -- and across the country -- came together to help the effort to recall Scott Walker and fight corporate influence.
What this election really showed, though, is the damage Citizens United has done to our political system, and to our country. Corporate money isn't just buying our elections. It's buying our politicians.
And after enacting a corporate lobbyist's legislative wish list, Scott Walker used time he should have spent touring the state talking to voters to tour the country talking to millionaires and billionaires instead. That's not democracy, and it shows why the fight against unlimited money has never been more important.
The good news is that despite complete dysfunction in Congress, laws already exist that make much of the secret unlimited money illegal. All we need is for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to direct the I.R.S. to enforce existing law.
Join the petition signed by thousands of your fellow progressives and tell Secretary Geithner to crack down on the phony "social welfare" groups the Koch brothers and others use to launder their political money.
Political entities like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity escape disclosing their donors by disguising their democracy-damaging groups as so-called "social welfare" organizations.
Under regulations governing such associations, they can keep their donors completely secret as long as they are not focused "primarily" on politics.
But it's outrageous for anyone to claim these groups are not primarily political -- and this election shows the practical impact of that great lie in the real world.
Secretary Geithner and the I.R.S. have the power to put the brakes on this anonymous big-money influence by revoking the tax-exempt status of these bogus "social welfare" groups.
Sign our petition today asking Secretary Geithner to improve I.R.S. enforcement of political groups masquerading as "social welfare" organizations.
The people and corporations spending this money aren't just buying politicians like Scott Walker. They're also buying our democracy and our government.
I hope you'll take this opportunity to step up the fight.
Thanks for uniting as a progressive,
WHAT MANY PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND IS THAT FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS REQUIRE THE ABILITY TO OPENLY COMMUNICATE POLITICAL OPINIONS FREELY IN LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL MEDIA. IF YOU CANNOT GET YOUR OPINION HEARD....YOUR ISSUE VOICED.......YOU HAVE A CAPTURED POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT. THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE IN MARYLAND, AND ESPECIALLY IN BALTIMORE.
If you want free and fair elections, we first need to petition the media to open their channels of public comment. I have spent this past year trying as hard as I can to get a counterpoint to issues pushed by the powers-that-be in mainstream media, with grudging results. I show in this section of my website where I wrote a complaint to the FEC about election fraud surrounding this blackout of political information. I asked that the Federal government come in to require that media channels be opened to political discourse in Maryland.
EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE CONCERNED OVER THIS FREE AND FAIR POLITICAL DISCOURSE THAT IS REQUIRED FOR DEMOCRATIC CIVIC ACTION. IT IS DEAD IN BALTIMORE AND IT IS ENDANGERED IN MARYLAND.
I have sent this letter to the mainstream media in the Baltimore area. Whether it is Maryland Daily Record, Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore Brew, WYPR/WEAA, MPT, TV and radio stations, or the many local news journals in every community.......we want political discourse open and free.
The next step will be making existing and new political organizations active and vital. The League of Women Voters and the Urban League have always been strong voices in city poltiics.......I heard nothing from either in these past elections. THIS MUST CHANGE. IT IS NOT ONLY LEADERSHIP....IT IS PUBLIC PARTICIPATION THAT MAKES THIS HAPPEN. GET OUT AND JOIN THESE GROUPS.... HAVE ENGAGING POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS.....CREATE A CHAIN OF POLITICAL COMMUNICATION IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
We do not want figurehead community leaders making widespread general endorsements. That is not democracy. We don't see these figureheads as lacking genuine concern for their constituents until they have a vital group behind them giving power to their advocacy. Just as with the unions.....if the members aren't holding their leadership to the fire......it will be the membership who get burned!
As we work to make Baltimore a growing and vibrant city, the key lies with moving it from being a closed and controlled society to one that is open and engaging. That is the mission of public media....has been and we want it to remain so.
This closed and controlled system can be witnessed best in the way that mainstream media in the city allows public comment. As an activist I have plenty of comments to make publically. As an academic, my comments are mostly accurate. As someone wanting to have my comments published, I keep them moderate. ACCURATE, MODERATE, AND RELEVANT are the requirements for public comment in media of all kinds.
I am asking media outlets in Baltimore to adhere to these guidelines and publish comments, whether they agree with your philosophy or that of your sponsors or not. That is fair and balanced journalism for which public media was created. I have watched this year as my comments remain permanently 'pending'. We are all forced to go online to Facebook to comment more freely....but are we really free to comment in Facebook, given that the government, employers, and future personal endeavors are watching. I say that is the point of public commenting on Facebook.
Open WYPR's public comment guidelines on your website so people are free to share information that is critical for an educated civic minded society.