Prince George’s Residents Urge Redistricting Commission To Keep Communities Whole

The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission weighed criteria and opened the door for public proposals Thursday. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Prince George’s County residents urged members of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission at a Wednesday evening public hearing to keep communities whole as they craft new legislative and congressional district maps.

Residents from across the state have urged commission members to keep neighborhoods intact in proposed maps throughout the panel’s first round of public hearings, and that trend continued at Wednesday’s meeting: Tamara Davis Brown, a resident of Clinton in southern Prince George’s County, said her community is currently split between three legislative districts.

“We should not be allowing our political officials to select their voters,” Brown said.

Monica Roebuck, an educator and voting rights advocate from Bowie, urged commission members to draw legislative districts of equal population, noting that current legislative districts vary in population.

She also said Prince George’s County should be kept as contiguous as possible in congressional maps.

“The needs of Calvert, St. Mary’s and Prince George’s are all different,” Roebuck said. “I don’t see, if we apply the rules to make it contiguous, how we would have one congressional district in three different counties.”

Richard Elliott, a Glenn Dale resident, likewise urged commission members to keep his community whole in their proposed maps. He said proposed district lines should follow already-existing roads, communities and neighborhoods.

Del. Nicole A. Williams (D-Prince George’s) said commission members should keep the state’s current multi-member legislative district system in their proposed maps. Williams, who currently serves a multi-member legislative district, said such districts give people of color and women a better shot at getting elected.

Prince George’s County Councilmember Deni L. Taveras (D) said commission members should draw at least some single-member districts to ensure more reflective representation of Latino communities in the state.

“We’ve been highly neglected as a Latino community; that’s reflected here in this area,” Taveras said.

Taveras said the commission should also undertake more intense outreach to Latino communities across the state during the next round of public hearings.

Wednesday evening’s hearing wrapped up the commission’s initial slate of public hearings conducted ahead of the release of U.S. Census data in August. The commission will reconvene for a second round of public hearings on Aug. 25 after the release of U.S. Census redistricting data, commission co-chair Kathleen Hetherington, an independent voter, said.

Public testimony at the commission’s second round of public hearings “should focus on specific data from the Census Bureau, rather than general opinions on the redistricting process,” Hetherington said.

The multi-partisan Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission was created by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to draw up the congressional and legislative district maps he will propose to the General Assembly. Lawmakers will have the final say over those proposed maps, and Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate.

The General Assembly’s own redistricting commission is set to conduct public hearings across the state beginning in August. Legislative leaders are considering convening a special session in early December to deal with congressional redistricting.

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