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Redistricting Changes Coming in Maryland

Posted: November 8, 2015 at 9:30 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

PatFenatiBy Patricia Fenati

Long before the 2020 census figures are gathered and calculated, Governor Hogan is planning to develop a better way to reconfigure congressional and state districts in Maryland. District lines will be redrawn every ten years after a constitution-required census is taken to reflect the movements of population to/from cities, suburbs and farmlands.

The goal is to set up a non-partisan redistricting board with guidelines for establishing rational districts in our state. A listening group has already met with citizens in five locations around the state to hear opinions about issues that they would like to be taken into consideration before districts are redrawn.

In the 2010 election, Governor O’Malley used the redistricting mandate as an opportunity to not only ensure Democrat victories in seven out of our eight congressional districts, but to also ensure that state representation from the large population areas remained under one-party rule. His redistricting committee met with citizens around the state after the 2010 census was completed when, most likely, the district lines were already determined. I went to one of those hearings in Frederick city. Local Democrats complained that they had had a Republican congressman in District 6 for years because the areas surrounding the city are Republican while Frederick city is more Democrat. The districts drawn by Governor O’Malley are said to be most gerrymandered in the nation.

Pat Fenati OneI refer to District 3, which meanders through four counties and Baltimore City, an “amoeba looking for a county.” I have also heard it referred to as a “Rorschach Test.” Congressional District 3 snakes its way up on the side of the District 14 where I live to a precinct that votes in the Damascus Library. In fact, the little town of Damascus has voting precincts in all three Montgomery County Congressional districts.

Except for District 1, which is represented by Republican Congressman Andy Harris, all Congressional Districts in the state are configured to facilitate Democrat victories in elections, mixing conservative areas with heavily populated liberal areas. The districts are configured for political purposes only with no regard for the interests of constituents.

District 8 combines voters from the urban areas of Montgomery County, Takoma Park and Silver Spring with those in the farming communities of Frederick and Carroll Counties.

District 6 encompasses the far western rural counties and reaches way into the wealthy Democrat areas of Potomac,Pat Fenati Two making sure it picks up Frederick city with its liberal votes. You can see the town of Frederick inside the circle on the map. I think it looks like a little “in-your-face fist” that defies surrounding rural communities.

A congressional district that consists of approximately 722,000 people, Montgomery County’s population is greater than that, so we should have most of our citizens within one Congressional District. Instead we have three Congressmen representing parts of eight counties in addition to our own, counties with totally different needs than our county. And our Congressmen have shown little interest in the counties they represent. They are far more concerned about where their votes are so they can stay in office in the next election cycle.

Gov. Hogan’s board has heard hours of testimony. Both Democrats and Republicans want compact congressional districts within one county when possible. Widespread dissatisfaction with the current O’Malley districts crossed party lines.

Another important topic at the redistricting board meeting concerned state district lines. Again, our current lines were drawn for political reasons. In Montgomery County they are drawn to safeguard one-party representation in the statehouse. I live in state District 14, which is over 30 miles long and about four miles wide. It extends from farming communities along the Frederick County border where the population is more conservative through, Olney where there are many suburban homes and townhomes and the voting population is more mixed. District 14 then continues on to the Prince George’s County line where there are areas with urban needs and the population is predominantly Democrat. The district’s representatives all live below the middle of the district with two living close to the Prince George’s County line. They seldom are seen up county.

In addition to avoiding constituencies of state senate districts having dissimilar needs and demographics, the other theme that reverberated in many of the testimonies before the redistricting board was a request that all senate districts be divided into three single member delegate districts so that all delegates would live in and reflect the needs of their own communities.

At the meeting I attended a few weeks ago, the board created by Governor Hogan heard many opinions, but the preponderance of voices at the meeting were those of citizens simply looking for basic guidelines to ensure fair representation. I have faith that this board will present the concerns they heard to the governor and I hope that guidelines will be set and rules will be changed. The objective is to create a non-partisan redistricting committee that will ensure fair representation for the citizens of Maryland in Congress and in Annapolis