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State Official Predicts Little Change From Congressional Redistricting

Anne Arundel likely to remain divided among four districts, despite population shifts according to U.S. Census

When plans to redraw Maryland’s congressional districts are submitted at the end of the month, Anne Arundel County will still likely be divided among four representatives in Congress, the Maryland Secretary of State predicted Thursday.

In determining districts, the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee starts at the edges of the state and works inward, Secretary of State John P. McDonough told the 33rd District Democratic Club at its monthy meeting Thursday at Perry’s Restaurant in Odenton. This results in the state being divided among congressional districts 1 to 4.

The committee is charged with redistricting both the state’s congressional and legislative districts to reflect population changes according to the U.S. Census.

But even those population changes likely wouldn’t mean a huge shift in who represents different sections of the county, McDonough predicted. Instead, the biggest change probably would affect Baltimore’s seventh district, represented by Democrat Elijah Cummings, he said. That district would lose some precincts, as its population has decreased, he said.

“So, there’s no hope Anne Arundel County would get less than four [representatives]?” club member Torrey Jacobsen asked.

“I personally wouldn’t put money on it,” McDonough replied.

“We’d take one big one,” Jacobsen said, referring to a district, although other club members immediately countered, “No, we wouldn’t.”

McDonough said he couldn’t predict which precincts could go to a different district in the county, but did say between 60 to 65 percent would remain in their present district.

The bipartisan redistricting committee is scheduled to present its proposal to Gov. Martin O’Malley this month, and a special General Assembly session will be held the week of Oct. 17 to vote on the proposal, McDonough said. Special sessions can last for one day, or be held over as many as are needed.

The public probably will not have a chance to comment on the proposal at that point, given that the committee held hearings around the state since July, although McDonough acknowledged some of September’s hearings had to be rescheduled.

“I’m not sure if this is foreshadowing, but the meetings were scheduled on days when we’ve had a hurricane, an earthquake and flooding,” he said, drawing chuckles from the 15 attendees. Committee members “view the public hearings as being public comment. They don’t try to redo that in Annapolis.”

In previous redistricting processes, the state legislative districts also were redrawn at the same time, but that likely would be handled separately because of the primary election, he said. Residents of Odenton are expected to watch that process closely to see if they continue to be split among three state districts, including District 21, which includes portions of Prince George's County.

Although the state is facing issues that some say need immediate attention, those likely wouldn’t be considered during this special session, McDonough said.

“I know there’s been discussion of the special session taking up other matters, like taxes and the recession,” he said. “I have not seen any effort toward that. A special session covering those topics seems unlikely.”

What does seem likely is a possible court challenge.

“Almost every redistricting plan goes to court. It historically is very litigious. You almost expect it,” McDonough said. “Congressional plans are hard to overturn unless you have a voting rights act claim.”

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