Photo above: Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford points to map of 3rd Congressional District held by Carol Ann Hecht of the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section.
By Len Lazarick
The cake and ice cream in Lawyer’s Mall at the State House Thursday was for Elbridge Gerry again. But the long-dead statesman, signer of the Declaration of Independence and 6th vice president of the United States was not being honored for his distinguished career, but for a minor political act that has outlived him.
As governor of Massachusetts, he gave his name to the gerrymander, the drawing of legislative districts for partisan political gain.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford came out not just to get a piece of chocolate cake, but to lend the Hogan administration support for the Tame the Gerrymander effort in Maryland. It is being led by Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the Annapolis chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.
“It’s terrible, it’s undemocratic,” said Rutherford, pointing to his Columbia home in the 3rd Congressional District, deemed the second most gerrymandered district in the county — running from Towson to Olney and Silver Spring and over to Annapolis.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Rutherford said.
Gov. Larry Hogan promised in his State of the State address in January to “execute an executive order that creates a bipartisan commission to examine Maryland’s redistricting process with the goal of fully reforming this process and giving this authority to an independent, bipartisan commission.”
Hogan has yet to fulfill that promise, and has not prominently mentioned the topic again.
Asked about the promise of the commission, Rutherford said, “that will be coming” but did not say when.
“Gov. Hogan has an historic opportunity,” said former Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews, a longtime advocate for redistricting reform. “This is truly a bipartisan problem and we need a bipartisan solution.”
He pointed out that Gerry’s map — depicted as a salamander in a cartoon of the day — is actually “less disjointed and more compact than the maps we see today.” That includes the 3rd Congressional District, which is “the worst of the worst,” Andrews said.
The advocates this year are encouraged by the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Arizona’s redistricting by an independent commission.
The Tame the Gerrymander coalition has tried to throw a little humor into a topic that is not at the top of most voters’ concerns.
Ralph Watkins of the League of Women Voters of Maryland acted out the recipe for Gerrymander Cake.
Among other things it includes “five firmly packed cups” of Democrats or Republicans, packing the term for putting as many of one party into a district as possible, such as having a quarter of the Maryland’s Republicans in the 1st Congressional District. There was also a quarter teaspoon of ambition — “experience shows a little goes a long way” — and the cake should be baked in a closed room and not exposed to sunlight.