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Maryland voters approve redistricting, constitutional amendments


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Published on: Wednesday, November 07, 2012

By Caitlin Johnston and Carl Straumsheim, Capital News Service

COLLEGE  PARK — Marylanders approved a new congressional redistricting map on Tuesday, despite opposition from members of both political parties, who called it “unconstitutional” and “a shameful case of gerrymandering.”

Voters also ratified three, less-controversial constitutional amendments at the polls Tuesday.

“The way they (redistricting maps) were drawn was ridiculous,” said Karen Donaldson, a 57-year-old real estate agent from Westminster. “My dog could have done a better job.”

The Constitution requires states to redraw boundary lines after each census, making sure there is roughly the same population in each congressional district. Although all the votes were not in, the measure was passing 63 to 37 percent.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, became one of the most high-profile opponents, saying the gerrymandered map damaged the public interest and threatened the representative process. Yet, many voters said they didn’t know enough about the issue to make a decision or didn’t believe it was something they needed to vote on.

“It’s a constitutional requirement,” said 54-year-old Karin Zeitvogel, of Rockville. “I shouldn’t have to vote for it.”

Questions  1 and 2, which require that judges on the Orphans’ Courts of Baltimore and Prince George’s counties be members in good standing of the Maryland State Bar Association, both passed with more than 85 percent of the vote. To be approved, the amendments had to pass with majorities in the two named counties, regardless of how the rest of the state voted. Voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s counties supported the measures with 92 and 93 percent, respectively.

Question 3 passed with about 88 percent of the vote. It says “an elected official is suspended when found guilty and is removed when the conviction becomes final or when the elected official pleads guilty or no contest.” Previously, officials were removed from office only after being sentenced for a crime.

The push to put Question 3 on the ballot was led by lawmakers responding to scandals like the bribery case involving former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson. Jack Johnson was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to taking more than $400,000 in bribes, while Leslie Johnson pleaded guilty to destroying evidence and received a jail sentence of 12 months and one day.

Capital News Service’s Matt Owings and Chris Leyden contributed to this report.

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