Cecil County residents urged members of the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission to keep their county in the same congressional district as the Eastern Shore rather than combine it with portions of Baltimore.
During a Thursday evening public hearing at Cecil College’s Millburn Stone Theatre, residents of that top-of-the-Bay county said the largely agricultural jurisdiction has little in common with Baltimore City and that the two areas shouldn’t be drawn into one district.
Currently, Cecil County is included with the entire Eastern Shore alongside portions of Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties in the 1st Congressional District.
Three of four maps released by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission keep Cecil County with the Eastern Shore, but one map includes Cecil County with portions of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
Boundaries of that map, Plan 3 proposed by the commission, include portions of Anne Arundel County with all Eastern Shore counties south of Cecil in the 1st congressional district. Plan 3 is the closest to an 8-0 Democratic map released by the commission and creates a 1st District that would favor Democrats 55%-45%, according to an analysis by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave all four maps a failing grade after researchers rated them on “partisan fairness,” “competitiveness” and “geographic features.”
“To smash together Baltimore and Cecil County is an absolutely insane idea because it doesn’t serve either party,” Cecil County Resident Bob Gatchel said. “The needs and the differences are so diverse that any representation would just be bifurcated and lose a lot of power.”
Dave Warnick, a commissioner for the small town of Rising Sun in far northeast Cecil County, likewise said that Cecil County should be kept with agricultural areas of the Eastern Shore.
“The culture of the Eastern Shore is certainly different than the hustle and bustle of more urban areas, such as Baltimore City,” Warnick said.
Cecil County resident Adriana Brown likewise said she thought it would be difficult for a congressional representative to juggle the needs of Baltimore and Cecil County.
“I don’t know how anyone could represent fairly Baltimore City and Cecil County in the same breath,” Brown said. “We are so completely different from one another. Our lifestyles are different. Our businesses are different. Everything about these two areas are completely different.”
Other Cecil County residents said they preferred Plan 3: Liz Dubravcic said that she felt her voice as a Democrat has been “totally denied” under the current map. Dubravcic said she doesn’t have much in common with people from the far southern parts of the Eastern Shore such as Ocean City and Wicomico County.
“I actually feel stretched out in this 1st Congressional District as it stands,” Dubravcic said.
The meeting came just days after a statewide virtual public hearing by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission in which many Eastern Shore residents urged commission members to draw a more competitive 1st Congressional District to challenge U.S. Rep Andrew P. Harris, Maryland’s lone congressional Republican, citing his vote earlier this year against certifying the 2020 election results after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The 1st District is currently solidly Republican, and Harris garnered 63.4% of the vote against challenger Mia Mason’s 36.4% in the 2020 election.
Many who testified at the statewide hearing also supported Plan 3 because they said the Eastern Shore has more in common with Anne Arundel County, via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, than with northern Maryland. In the commission’s Plan 2, Cecil County is kept with the Eastern Shore in the 1st Congressional District along with a smaller portion of Anne Arundel County than in Plan 3.
Cecil County is kept in the 1st Congressional District under the congressional map proposed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, created by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) earlier this year to draw up maps that he will propose to the General Assembly.
Hogan has said he would object to maps from the General Assembly that differ from those drawn up by his commission, but Democrats hold a veto-proof majority in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate and have complete control over the redistricting process in Maryland.
Analysts from Princeton gave the map drawn by Hogan’s commission an A for partisan fairness.
Lawmakers are set to tackle congressional redistricting at a special session beginning Dec. 6.