This fall, the League of Women Voters of Maryland participated in a new and exciting event aimed at raising awarness of the many gerrymandered districts across the country. On September 19th, 2014 the inaugural “Gerrymander Meander” consisted of about two dozen public advocates from different backgrounds and political parties to travel by foot, boat or bike on a route of 225 miles. The route was designed to show just how large and unfairly drawn Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District is. The “three-day exercise for democracy” kicked off with a press conference in Roosevelt Park in Baltimore.
Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District has been named the "Most Gerrymandered" district in the country. The federal judge who passed the Congressional lines drawn by Democrats after the 2010 census said that the lines were “reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.” The race was sponsored by the Tame the Gerrymander Coalition in Maryland’s Third Congressional District. The Coalition is made up of 5,200 members from different organizations including the League of Women Voters of Maryland, Common Cause Maryland, and the Annapolis chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women. The goal of the race was to raise awareness about the unfairness of redistricting laws. One of the many diverse participants, Paula Carrigan, the cross country coach at Annapolis High School said, “My real passion is running, not politics, but this is important. We want to get out the message: Gerrymandering is not fair.”
In preparation for the big event, press advisories were sent out inviting reporters to talk to runners as well as ride along in the trail car at any point along the course. The event received a wide array of media coverage, which is part of the reason it was so successful. Former LWV of Maryland state president Nancy Soreng participated in the race by riding her bike 15 miles. Soreng said, “I’ve been frustrated by the lack of progress but excited about this opportunity to bring attention to the cause”. The event ended at the state house in Annapolis. There, participants presented a petition asking for a new, “fair and open” procedure to draw congressional and state-legislative districts. A closing rally on Sunday afternoon brought the “Gerrymandering Meander” to an end. The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor sent spokesmen and the Libertarian candidate came to the rally in person.
Like in many states, Maryland is in need of standards and regulations in order to prevent this political chicanery and the” Gerrymandering Meander” was a great step towards that end.