Maryland voters will vote for Congressional candidates under the new redistricting map; but they also have to decide whether to keep the map in effect.
This is the third part of a weeklong series on ballot questions facing Maryland voters this fall. The first part outlined the advertising battle over Question 7 on gambling expansion in the state, while the second part explored the heart of the debate over Question 4 on in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants.
Some Maryland voters will be voting for a different Congressional seat on Election Day this year, thanks to the redistricting map that was approved by state lawmakers last year. But those same voters will also be choosing whether to keep that map in a ballot question, meaning there could be completely new districts for the next Congressional elections in 2014.
The fate of Question 5, as it's referred to on the ballot, could come down to the votes of Democrats in Montgomery County.
At first glance, Republicans have the most to lose in the new Congressional map. The 6th District was changed to include a large part of the Democratic stronghold of Montgomery County, making incumbent Republican Roscoe Bartlett one of the most vulnerable candidates in the entire country as he faces Democrat John Delaney.
But there are many Montgomery County Democrats not entirely pleased with the redistricting process. Despite his support of Delaney, Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews is one of them.
"John Delaney is an excellent candidate in my view, and if the voters agree, he'll win," says Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews. "This doesn't change the outcome of that race. I think in the long run it's harmful for the Democratic party to be associated with this kind of extreme gerrymander."
Andrews believes the new map was written to protect incumbent congressmen outside of Montgomery County. In particular, he's critical of the new 3rd District, represented by Democrat John Sarbanes, which includes parts of Annapolis, Towson, and Silver Spring.
"Gerrymandering is wrong no matter who does it," Andrews says. "This is an extreme gerrymander by any standard, far worse than the 1812 Massachusetts map that led to the term gerrymandering."
There are plenty of Democrats in Montgomery County — the state's largest jurisdiction — who disagree. Council member George Leventhal argues redistricting is a partisan process in most states.
"I don't think Democrats should unilaterally disarm," Leventhal says. "It is important to elect a Democratic majority in the House if you care about healthcare, or a reasonable approach to balancing the budget."
Leventhal also disagrees with claims made by opponents that the map dilutes the voting strength of the county's minority population.
"We have an African-American county executive," Leventhal says. "I think voters in Montgomery County are quite willing to vote for candidates of any and every ethnicity, if they're quality candidates."
Should voters reject the map, it would not affect this year's Congressional elections. A new map would be drawn for 2014.