Redistricting Commission Urged To Adopt Single-Member Delegate Districts At First Public Hearing

The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission is holding public hearings to get advice from voters on how to redraw the state's congressional and legislative district boundaries. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Eastern Shore residents urged the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission to adopt single-member legislative districts at a virtual hearing Wednesday evening, with some charging that the state’s current hybrid model is unfair for voters.

The executive order from Gov Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) that created the commission requires that, to the extent practicable, commissioners include single-member delegate districts in the proposed maps. The state’s current House of Delegates districts vary between single-member and multi-member districts, a system that some Eastern Shore residents oppose.

Bill Satterfield, a Wicomico County resident, urged members of the commission to adopt single-member districts. He said the state’s current system means that some voters have greater power in the legislature compared to others.

“Everybody should have one vote for one person,” Satterfield said.

Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore) likewise urged members of the commission to move toward single-member districts. Carozza herself was elected in a single member House district, District 38C in Wicomico County, before being elected to the Senate.

“I can speak to the effectiveness of serving my constituents in that capacity,” Carozza said.

Muir Boda, a Salisbury City Council member, said multi-member districts often confuse residents over who to contact on legislative issues.

Carozza also urged commissioners to keep the Eastern Shore whole in the redistricting process. The entire region is currently included in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, which is home to the lone Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation, Rep. Andrew P. Harris.

Boda urged commissioners to create “contiguous” districts that keep communities together. He noted the vast difference between Ocean City on the Lower Shore and Taneytown in Carroll County, and said the commission may want to consider creating a district that would include parts of Southern Maryland along with the Eastern Shore.

Community outreach was another prominent topic at the meeting, with some residents urging commission members to better publicize future rounds of public hearings. Demba Ndiaye said he received notice of the meeting just days before it was going to take place.

“This commission, at this time, needs to focus more on outreach and communication to get more people involved in this process,” Ndiaye said.

Moonyene Jackson-Amis, a Talbot County resident, urged the commission to do more intensive outreach to communities on the topic of single-member and multi-member districts. She said each community will be impacted differently by how districts are drawn.

“I don’t know really what the impact would actually be for the population that I’m most concerned about,” Jackson-Amis said. “We need more representation from the African American community.”

Kathleen Hetherington (I), the president of Howard Community College and one of the commission’s co-chairs, said Wednesday that more public hearings will take place as the commission draws up maps.

The multi-partisan commission is tasked with drawing up congressional and state legislative maps for Hogan to submit to the General Assembly, and is currently holding a round of public hearings before the release of 2020 Census redistricting data. The maps that Hogan submits will ultimately be subject to approval and revision by the General Assembly.

The commission’s next virtual hearing is set for next Wednesday, June 16, and will focus on Carroll, Cecil and Harford counties.

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Bennett Leckrone
Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.