Friday, August 31, 2012

MoCo Democratic Sample Ballot Battle: Councilmember Phil Andrews Fights Redistricting // PLUS: Young Dem on Dream Act

BACKGROUND: Yesterday, Maryland Juice reported that the Montgomery County Democrats have begun the process of assembling a sample ballot mailing for this November's Presidential Election. In addition to candidates for public office, the sample ballot will include the MoCo Dems' recommendations on the numerous referenda being voted on this year. The first big step in this process happened this week, when the "Ballot Question Advisory Committee" heard testimony from a range of MoCo Democratic activists and officials. After debating the referenda, the committee voted to support a vote "FOR" the Dream Act (Question 4) and marriage equality (Question 6). But the "Ballot Question Advisory Committee" voted overwhelmingly to oppose Maryland's Congressional redistricting plan, as well as a proposed expansion of gambling in the Free State. These recommendations will now be provided to the numerous Democratic precinct officials in Montgomery County for ratification or rejection, before the sample ballots gets printed.

A BATTLE OVER THE SAMPLE BALLOT: But Maryland Juice has been hearing that the recommendations are causing some controversy. A handful of MoCo Democratic officials are now threatening to withhold funding for the sample ballot mailing unless some of the recommendations are discarded. The sample ballot mailing, after all, would be sent to nearly a quarter of a million Montgomery County Democrats. Here are a few resources for voters that want to brush up on the key issues:

TESTIMONY FROM TWO MOCO DEMOCRATS: Below we provide two bits of testimony that members of the Ballot Question Advisory Committee heard before they made their recommendations. First, we print a press statement from Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews, who urged a vote "AGAINST" Maryland's Congressional district plan (Question 5). We also provide the testimony of Ben Feshbach, urging a vote "FOR" the Dream Act (Question 4). Feshbach is a Wooton High School student and is active in the Montgomery County Student Government Association, the Young Democrats, and the Obama campaign.

Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews Blasts 
Maryland State Congressional Redistricting Map in Testimony

Ballot Questions Advisory Committee of County’s Democratic Party
Overwhelmingly Rejects Congressional Redistricting Map

ROCKVILLE, Md., August 30, 2012 —Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews on Aug. 29 testified before the Ballot Questions Advisory Committee of the County’s Democratic Party, blasting the redistricted Congressional map of Maryland that was proposed by Governor Martin O'Malley, approved by the General Assembly and that is in effect for the 2012 elections. After Councilmember Andrews and others spoke on the proposal that will ask voters whether to uphold the current map or reject it, the advisory committee overwhelmingly voted to reject the current map. Andrews praised the committee for "rejecting an egregiously gerrymandered map"

The advisory committee’s rejection of the map by a vote of 11-1 with 2 not taking a position will be relayed to approximately 400 key members of the party. On Sept. 19, those members are scheduled to vote on this issue, and others, in regard to endorsements on a sample ballot that will be distributed to the public. The issues will be on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

In his testimony, Councilmember Andrews said: “The new map is atrociously convoluted and barely contiguous in numerous areas. For example, District 3 includes the far-flung communities of Silver Spring, Towson, and Annapolis, yet excludes most of the areas between. District 3 looks like blood spatter from a crime scene rather than a Congressional district.”

The complete text of the testimony of Councilmember Andrews:
Councilmember Phil Andrews
Maryland’s Congressional redistricting map is an egregious example of gerrymandering -- far worse than the 1812 Massachusetts map that is the namesake of the word (see the attached 1812 Massachusetts state senate map and Maryland’s Congressional Districts 2, 3, 4 and 8). The new map is atrociously convoluted and barely contiguous in numerous areas. For example, District 3 includes the far-flung communities of Silver Spring, Towson, and Annapolis, yet excludes most of the areas between. District 3 looks like blood spatter from a crime scene rather than a Congressional district.

The map unnecessarily moves MOST households in the County into a different Congressional district. It unnecessarily divides communities of interest in Montgomery County. And it unnecessarily includes communities in other counties that have little in common with Montgomery while excluding communities in other counties that have much more in common with Montgomery. For example, District 8 now extends through much of Frederick County to the Pennsylvania border, but excludes the part of Frederick County—Frederick City—that has the most in common with Montgomery County.

Many County residents who voted in the 2012 primary were surprised and upset to find out that they had been redistricted into a different Congressional district. Multiply that number several fold to anticipate the reaction this fall when many more voters go to the polls and find out they have been moved to a different congressional district. I have spoken with many County voters about the redistricting map in the past few months, and most are opposed – many very strongly. When first proposed last year, the map (which was later adopted with only very minor changes) was strongly criticized by a supermajority of the County Council, by Congresswoman Donna Edwards, by state legislators of both parties, by Common Cause of Maryland and by the Maryland League of Women Voters. On July 21, The Washington Post editorialized against the adopted map. In a potential foreshadowing of November, the candidate in the District 6 Democratic primary who voted for this outrageous map—and who commentators identified as an intended beneficiary of the new lines—was overwhelmingly defeated.

The argument that some have made in defense of the map that “every state gerrymanders,” is false. Some states have set up independent redistricting commissions to address the inherent problem of elected officials drawing their own districts. Public rejection of Maryland’s map is the only way to get the Governor and General Assembly to redraw it, and to create the momentum that might win passage of a much-needed independent redistricting commission. The Montgomery County Democratic Party needs to be on the side of reform rather than on the side of those who gerrymander. Don’t sully the Democratic Party’s good name by supporting this indefensible, gerrymandered map.
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Below you can read the testimony of Ben Feshbach, providing a student perspective on the Maryland Dream Act (Question 4):
Ben Feshbach (center) with MoCo Young Dems
BEN FESHBACH: Members of the ballot committee, members of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, and leaders around Montgomery County: thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion about this important issue.

My name is Ben Feshbach, I am a student at Wootton High School, Chair of the High School Democrats of Maryland and Youth Rights Chair of the Montgomery County Young Democrats, whom I am here on behalf of.

I wish to express my opinion supporting the referendum of Senate Bill 167, also known as the Maryland DREAM Act. It is my opinion that the Maryland DREAM Act not only exemplifies but also bridges between three things the Democratic Party values: equality, education and looking out for those who are unable to fully support themselves.

Historically, the Democratic Party has led the way in supporting civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights. At the Congressional level, our Democratic members of the House and Senate are reliably supporting the continued funding of Pell Grants and on the statewide level, Democratic governors such as our own Martin O’Malley are making education a top priority. As a central committee of the Democratic Party here Maryland, it is time for Montgomery County to do its part supporting the rights of young immigrants.

The Maryland DREAM Act provides, in essence, that if a student lives in and graduates from a Maryland High School, whose parents file taxes in the state of Maryland, then that student is able to receive in-state tuition rates at a public college or university within the state, regardless of immigration or naturalization status - no different than any other students in Maryland eligible for in-state tuition. The people who will benefit from the Maryland DREAM Act are already in this country. Their parents are already filing taxes, and denying them the tuition aid that helps them obtain a higher level of education does not change that. The students who will benefit from the DREAM Act did not to choose to come to this country through illegal means, and they have grown up knowing no country but ours - thus it is my opinion that in this case we should not treat them differently than our own just because they are american in their hearts but not on paper, just because of where they were born and how they got here. That is discrimination. Denying the DREAM not only hurts the futures of these students, it does not give them the chance to contribute to our society.

I may not be personally affected by the passage of the Maryland DREAM Act, but many of my peers would not be so lucky if Maryland voters do not ratify this referendum. I’ve met students who want to become doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. Imagine the benefits to our community if we pass this legislation come November. Imagine the difference if we don’t. The fact is, we don’t know, because we haven’t given these students the chance to prove themselves. This is economically beneficial, this is socially beneficial, and it is the right thing to do. As a student and as a Young Democrat, I strongly urge that the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee vote FOR question four when determining its positions on the ballot items for this November. Thank you. 

More on the battle over the MoCo Democratic Sample ballot soon!

1 comment:

  1. Councilmember Andrews would like to unilaterally disarm against the onslaught of GOP gerrymandering in our neighboring states of PA and VA and in many other states nationwide. The GOP legislature in VA created a map that is 8-3 GOP in the House in a state that votes 50-50 Dem|GOP and the wimpy Washington Post didn't think that was worthy of condemnation. Without GOP gerrymandering the Dems would be an even bet to reclaim the House. Its time for Dems to fight back.