Southern Maryland residents overwhelmingly backed single-member legislative districts that avoid crossing county lines at a redistricting commission hearing Wednesday night.
Residents criticized the current map — which has legislative districts that sprawl across as many as four counties — as unfair and confusing.
“Every county is its separate entity. They have their own separate school boards, they have their own separate commissioner groups. But yet, when it gets to the state levels, things really get split up,” said James McQueen, a Calvert County resident who said he works as a coordinator for a “grassroots” organization. “More and more people are coming to us for help contacting your legislators,” he said, “but they don’t have a clue who’s who.”
Theresa Kuhns said the current political boundaries present an “unfair playing field”; when residents of different counties are grouped together, representatives must split their attention between constituents whose concerns can sometimes diverge.
Kuhns lives in Calvert County in district 27B, which shares a delegate with residents of Prince George’s County. The two counties have differing needs with respect to issues such as transportation and planning for growth, she said.
“What would work well in Prince George’s County will not always reflect the right decision for Calvert County residents,” she said.
Gov. Larry Hogan created the non-partisan redistricting commission earlier this year to advise him on the legislative map proposal he will send to the state legislature in early 2022. Legislative districts determine the geographical areas whose residents vote for delegates and state senators to represent them. The commission will pass along recommendations for a congressional map.
“Redistricting in the past in Maryland has been weaponized,” said Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s County). He urged the commission to create a map composed of only single-member districts, which he said would “put everything on a level playing field.”
Morgan asked the commission to consider the town of Charlotte Hall, which straddles the border of St. Mary’s and Charles counties. The right side is in district 29A and falls within St. Mary’s County and residents have one delegate to go to with any constituent problems — “This guy,” he said.
The left side of town, however, is in district 28 in Charles County. Its residents get three delegates to listen to their concerns, which Morgan said violated the principle of “one man, one vote.”
“I think it’s blatantly unfair to have multi-member districts,” he said.
The Maryland General Assembly will almost certainly make the final call on the maps. The legislature can change whatever legislative map Hogan submits, a move not subject to a veto. Its Democratic supermajority can choose to ignore the governor’s proposed congressional map and override an objection from the governor.