July 22, 2021
A number of Montgomery County residents at a public listening to Wednesday night urged members of the Maryland Residents Redistricting Fee to maintain multi-member districts of their proposed maps, arguing that such districts empower traditionally disenfranchised voters.
Maryland makes use of a mixture of single- and multi-member districts in its state legislative maps, however Montgomery County is presently solely made up of multi-member districts. Michelle C. Whittaker, a county Democratic activist and operative, mentioned multi-member districts are a part of why Maryland’s Common Meeting leads different states in inclusive illustration.
“Now we have elevated ladies’s illustration by having multi-member districts on the legislative degree, and we have had the chance to elect extra folks of colour,” Whittaker mentioned.
Natali-Fani Gonzalez, the vice chair of the Montgomery County Planning Fee and a candidate for a county council seat, mentioned she felt having three delegates to contact within the Common Meeting provides her entry to a wider vary of points than simply having one.
“I really like the truth that I’ve three delegates and one senator,” she mentioned. “If I’ve a difficulty on transportation, I do know who to name. If I’ve one other concern associated to civil rights, I do know who to name.”
The difficulty of whether or not voters are higher represented in single or multi-member districts has been repeatedly introduced up through the Maryland Residents Redistricting Fee’s first spherical of public hearings forward of the discharge of U.S. Census redistricting information. In creating the fee, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) mandated that single-member districts be utilized in proposed legislative maps, to the extent practicable.
Proponents of single-member districts argue they provide constituents extra customized, accessible illustration. Montgomery County Republican activist Ryan Gniadek advised fee members that single-member districts would enable the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg to have their very own delegate. They presently share three delegates and one state senator.
“These are two very distinct communities that each deserve their very own illustration,” Gniadek mentioned.
Alexander Bush, one other GOP activist, mentioned that in a densely populated jurisdiction like Montgomery County, drawing single-member districts would create “walkable” districts and provides political newcomers a greater shot at successful elections.
Linda Dorsey-Walker, who ran unsuccessfully for a Baltimore County legislative district in 2018, mentioned multi-member districts encourage extra competitors in elections as a result of they are not “one-on-one” competitions. She mentioned in addition they make it simpler for third-party candidates to run.
“The power of these districts relaxation on their potential to generate extra balanced illustration,” she mentioned.
Melissa Urofsky of the Montgomery County League of Girls Voters mentioned utilizing single-member legislative districts in maps would make it tougher to “keep away from splitting up necessary communities of curiosity.” She mentioned the fee ought to preserve the state’s present hybrid system and be versatile on utilizing single and multi-member districts.’
Others charged that the controversy for single- and multi-member districts was taking over an excessive amount of of the fee’s time.
“I feel this entire effort for redistricting for congressional districts acquired hijacked by this proposal for legislative redistricting and single member districts,” Michael Lore, chief of workers to Sen. Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery County), mentioned. Lore mentioned he was testifying on behalf of himself, not the senator. “There is no means it is going to cross the Home. They will not vote for this themselves, to cannibalize their districts.”
County residents additionally urged fee members to maintain communities entire and draw compact congressional districts.
“I really like Western Maryland, however honestly my considerations as a resident of Gaithersburg differs sharply from these of a resident of Allegany and Garrett county,” Mary Lanigan, a resident of Maryland’s sixth Congressional District, mentioned.
The Maryland Residents Redistricting Fee’s subsequent public listening to will likely be held subsequent Wednesday at 6 p.m. and can concentrate on Prince George’s County. Hogan tasked that fee with drawing up maps that he’ll suggest to the Common Meeting, the place Democrats maintain a veto-proof majority.
Lawmakers can have the ultimate say over any proposed maps. The Common Meeting’s own commission can be set to conduct public hearings on redistricting later this summer season.
For extra tales from Maryland Issues, go to www.marylandmatters.org.