Monday, January 9, 2012

Two Questions: 1) Will MD's Congressional Districts Face a Referendum? 2) Does Montgomery County Subsidize Maryland?

Read about our discoveries below! 

Tonight, Maryland Juice asks two questions prompted by news from this weekend:
  1. Will Maryland's 2012 Congressional Districts Face a Referendum?
  2. Does Montgomery County Help Subsidize Maryland?

Redistricting Referendum? Yesterday, The Hagerstown Herald-Mail's Andrew Schotz wrote an article about redistricting that caught my eye. At the end of 2011 we learned that a panel of judges rejected a legal challenge to Maryland's 2012 Congressional districts. But Mr. Schotz's reporting indicates that the lawsuit's supporters are now contemplating trying to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also leave open the possibility of gathering signatures for a referendum:
Tony Campbell of Towson, Md., said the plaintiffs that challenged the redistricting in court are considering appealing an unfavorable verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But, if they don't appeal, Campbell said, opponents of the approved redistricting plan might start a petition drive to have voters decide in a fall referendum....

Late last year, [Delegate Neil] Parrott gave the Maryland State Board of Elections a draft of a congressional redistricting referendum petition to review.....

Parrott said he wanted to have the petition ready in case a lawsuit didn't overturn the new redistricting plan....

Organizers in a new drive would have to submit petitions containing at least 55,736 valid signatures....
I asked a Maryland lawmaker about the possibility of placing a Congressional redistricting plan on the ballot, and he had this to say:
In 1961, the congressional plan was petitioned to referendum and rejected by the Voters.  I do not know what happened next.  There are some interesting legal issues about petitioning a bill passed during a special session that have never before been litigated or addressed in legal opinions.
Given these comments, I decided to explore further. According to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, the State's Congressional Districts were rejected by a referendum in 1961:
Chapter 206 of 1961, setting out new congressional district boundaries, was rejected by a vote of 211,904 to 115,557.
The Maryland State archives provide some additional background about the 1961 redistricting referendum. Apparently, the spark that ignited the 1961 battle was that Maryland's surging population that year earned it an extra member of Congress:
[Governor J. Millard] Tawes probably had to face more thorny constitutional problems than almost any of his predecessors.  During his two terms in office, he not only had to solve the question of public accommodations and civil rights, but also those of redistricting, reapportionment and constitutional reform.

In 1961, as the result of the census taken in the previous year, Maryland gained an additional congressional district.  In 1961 and again in 1963 and in 1965, the General Assembly attempted somewhat unsuccessfully to describe the boundaries of the new district by the passage of acts which would create the new eighth district.  In all these instances, these acts failed of ratification because referendum petitions were filed against them.  Finally in 1966 after the General Assembly had failed at a special session to redistrict the State, a special Federal Court composed of two district court judges and one judge representing the Court of Appeals divided the State into the new districts, so that these became effective for the 1966 elections.
In the 1962 book, The Politics of Reapportionment, editor Malcolm E. Jewell provides even greater detail about Maryland's 1961 referendum:
Almost half the states permit the use of a referendum. This was the method used in 1961 by Maryland suburbanites to challenge the limited reapportionment in that state which left several suburban counties seriously underrepresented. Page 17.

In Maryland, the new apportionment plan, which gave only limited recognition to the growth of suburban and often Republican counties, was at least temporarily blocked by a successful petition campaign for a referendum. Page 190.
However, the book also points out one distinct problem about the districts in 1961: "inequalities in district population were large." There is also much discussion about the political battle between counties. See the following maps from Mr. Jewell's book. Pages 214-215. (Note: I added color to help show the boundaries of the Congressional Districts, copyright CQ 1961):

Old Districts 1961
New Districts 1961

The text that accompanies these 1961 Congressional Districts provides some political context about that era (were there At-Large Congressional Districts in 1961?):
The argument of the League of Women Voters stressed the lack of relief to Sixth-District population pressures and to the inequity arising from leaving Second-District boundaries intact. The League was joined by many elements of the Republican Party and by the Maryland Committee for Fair Representation. Republican support was concentrated in the suburban counties; the state party showed little interest in the referendum campaign. It must be pointed out, however, that there was little  public attention to the administration's districting scheme. About two-thirds of the nearly 30,000 signatures were obtained from Montgomery County; some 3,000 came from Howard County, which had been combined with the much-larger Prince George's County in the proposed Eighth District; and the remainder came from other counties.

Newspaper analysts and political observers assumed that the seat had been created by the Tawes administration for the Speaker of the House, who lives in Prince George's county and had been a staunch supporter of Tawes. It therefore occasioned little surprise when Speaker Perry Wilkinson was selected to fill the at-large Congressional spot in the 1962 primary campaign on the administration's state-wide ticket.

Governor Tawes and the Democratic members of the House of Reprsentatives from Maryland, following age-old intuitive patterns in drawing lines for a new Congressional district, had to choose between satisfying Montgomery County or Prince George's County. The decision was certain to alienate people living in one of the two counties.
Notably, in the 1960's, the Baltimore region was still the major population center, with a combined population of over 1.5 million between Baltimore City and County. In contrast, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties still had populations around 350,000 each:


Today, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties have much larger populations, with nearly one million residents in Montgomery County alone. Meanwhile, the Baltimore region is shrinking in population. The political consequences of these population shifts cannot be overstated. This provides the perfect segue to Maryland Juice's second question:

Does Montgomery County Subsidize Maryland? Last Wednesday, The Gazette's Sarah Breitenbach had a very interesting article that discusses some of the inter-county jockeying in Maryland. Montgomery County lawmakers, with the backing of Senate President Mike Miller, are making the case that investing in the D.C. suburbs pays off for the rest of the state:
For Montgomery County legislators, the upcoming General Assembly session will center less on local bills and more on getting colleagues on board with the notion that investing in the Washington, D.C., suburb benefits the state as a whole....

The Purple Line, a proposed extension of the Metro system through Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, must be the centerpiece of the state’s transportation investment, said Senate delegation Chairman Jamie B. Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park....

“We are also fighting for a doubling down [of] our investment in education, which is the lifeblood of Montgomery County....”

The quest also requires the acknowledgment that economic and political power have shifted from the Baltimore area to the Washington, D.C., area, a difficult proposition for many to swallow, said Sen. Roger Manno (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring.

Manno said local lawmakers have to convince colleagues that funds directed to Montgomery County come back to the state in the form of jobs, taxes and other revenues....

“...it’s an arrangement that’s worked out really well for them for a long time,” Manno said.....

“We’re coming [out of the recession] slowly but surely, and Montgomery County is the economic engine that drives the state,” [Senate President Mike] Miller said during the breakfast meeting. “And I’m not catering to you or [patronizing] this group. It’s the truth....”
Perception appears to be part of the challenge in persuading some lawmakers to invest in transportation systems that do not directly benefit their constituents:
“Quite frankly, in Annapolis it’s still a challenge,” [Del. Brian] Feldman said. “The rest of the state, legislators from other parts of the state, look at Montgomery County as it existed 20 or 30 years ago — really white, affluent, without regard to needs.
The 1961 redistricting battle shows that regional jockeying in Maryland has been going on for decades. Only in 2012 is it becoming clear that Montgomery and Prince George's are truly re-anchoring political power in the State. Somehow that story is getting lost in the redistricting coverage, but my hunch is that the 2012 budget battles will bring these storylines back to the front page. Already it appears that the Purple Line may bring Montgomery and Prince George's together in 2012.

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