Southern Maryland residents urge redistricting panel to adopt single-member districts, keep communities whole

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

Southern Maryland residents urged members of the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission to adopt single-member legislative districts and keep counties whole at a Wednesday night public hearing.

Malcolm L. Funn, a Democratic member of the Maryland State Board of Elections and a Calvert County resident, noted that Calvert County is currently split between three legislative districts: 27B, 27C and 29C. Large portions of districts 27B and 29C are split between neighboring Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties, respectively.

That means Calvert County is split between three delegates and two senators. Funn said he’d like to see the county kept intact during the next round of redistricting.

“We would like to be able to stand alone,” he said.

Another Calvert County resident, Ella Ennis, urged commission members to draw up Calvert County as having two single-member delegate districts that aren’t split between multiple counties.

She said current legislative districts go against the Maryland Constitution’s requirements for compact districts that respect “natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.”

Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties all have state legislative districts split between multiple jurisdictions.

Vontasha Simms, a Charles County resident, urged commission members to try to keep her jurisdiction whole in their proposed maps.

Other residents shared ways their communities have already been affected by redistricting: Tamara Davis Brown, a resident of Clinton in southern Prince George’s County said the last round of redistricting was a “nightmare” for her community. Clinton is currently split between multiple legislative districts.”

And Elizabeth Stewart, a St. Mary’s County resident, said her own neighborhood is split between districts. She said the current configuration of districts makes it hard for residents to make their voices heard.

I. William Zartman, a professor emeritus of international organization and conflict resolution at Johns Hopkins University, said the commission should use single-member legislative districts statewide in their proposed maps.

Zartman said having uniform single-member districts — as opposed to the state’s current mix of single and multi-member districts — makes local representatives more accessible for voters.

“Single member districts are the only responsible kind of arrangement to have between voters and their representatives,” Zartman said.

Del. Matthew Morgan (R-St. Mary’s) said the state’s current mix of single-member and multi-member legislative districts disempowers voters. He noted that while voters in his district only vote to elect one delegate, voters in a neighboring district elect three in a multi-member district.

The issue of single versus multi-member districts is also difficult to explain to voters, he said.

“It’s very hard to explain to citizens, and something I wish the commission would deeply focus on is single member districts throughout the entire state of Maryland,” Morgan said.

Calvert County resident Theresa Kuhns said some multi-member district configurations split the attention of lawmakers, who are forced to juggle the interests of multiple counties.

The Maryland Citizens Redistricting commission was created by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) earlier this year to draw up proposed state and congressional districts that he will submit to lawmakers next year. The final configuration of those maps will ultimately be up to the General Assembly. The panel’s next public hearing will take place next Wednesday, June 30, and will focus on Western Maryland.

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