Gerrymandering at its Worse: a Look at Maryland

Gerrymandering at its Worse: a Look at Maryland

Gerrymandering at its Worse: a Look at Maryland


One of the following maps is the current gerrymander of Maryland’s Congressional District, and the other is my attempt at fair districts for Maryland.

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Map 1

Map 2

I’ve written before on how to create fair districts.  Let a computer do it, minimizing the lengths of internal borders, subject to the districts being roughly the same size.  In response to that idea, the late Ron Smith of WBAL radio said,

“That’s an interesting idea. The problem is that it would defeat the very purpose of gerrymandering, which is one of the rewards for gaining the upper hand as a political party. Pols probably wouldn’t relinquish that very easily.”

My replay was:

I have no illusions on something like this.  This could not come from inside the system, it would have to come around the system through a constitutional amendment process.  What’s worse, is that I don’t think there are any interest groups with money that would back such a proposal.

Now, I decided to trying an experiment.  I can imagine someone making the following argument:

What? Are you crazy?  Leave it to a computer?  Computers don’t respect the unique culture of political subdivisions within a state!  People on opposite sides of the street could be in different districts!  A large city could be split in two or three, with no respect for the various subcultural groups, which would lose their voice!  Haven’t you heard of the Voting Rights Act!?

Well, okay. Let’s try doing something a little different.  Let’s start with the next largest subdivision in states — counties.  Let’s try to do a few things:

  • Have districts that are roughly equal-sized.
  • Have districts that come from similar geographic areas of the state.
  • Divide up counties as little as possible.
  • When dividing counties use straight lines.

Three counties were larger than the amount needed for a seat — Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Baltimore County (not city, which is its own county).  That’s where I drew three short lines, giving bits of those counties to other districts.

The top map is my creation.  Given the odd geography of Maryland, I think it does a good job of creating equal districts amid the diverse cultural geography of Maryland.

  1. Western Maryland (rural)
  2. The Eastern Shore (rural)
  3. Southern Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay (suburban/rural)
  4. Montgomery County near DC (urban)
  5. Prince George’s County with Charles County to the South (urban)
  6. Baltimore County less its southern fringe (suburban/urban)
  7. Baltimore City w/Baltimore County’s southern fringe (urban)
  8. Central Maryland (suburban/rural)

When I look at the second map, I can’t see how any of the districts are fair.  They are discretionary, jagged, concave to the max.  Why anyone should rule that these districts are fair is beyond me.

To those who live in Maryland, which is maybe 2% of my audience: what would it take to get a ballot measure together to change the way that we set districts?  To those living in other states, maybe you want to consider a similar shift.

Looking at my map, I suspect the congressional composition would be 3-5 Democrat to 4-4 Tied, versus the 2-6 we have today, and the 4-4 that existed when I first moved here in 1998.

If representatives were elected proportionately, Maryland would be 3-5, blue as the state is.

These are just my musings, but I will be passing them on to my friends in Maryland.

By David Merkel, CFA of Aleph Blog


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David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.

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