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Taylor could represent county

December 06, 2000

Taylor could represent county



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

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Casper TaylorWhen Maryland's political boundaries are redrawn it's possible House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. could once again represent Washington County, an expert on the redistricting process said Wednesday.

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The influential Taylor, D-Allegany, says that's just fine with him.

The inherently political redistricting process begins April 1, when the state receives updated population numbers from Census 2000, said Karl S. Aro, executive director of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

Aro was the lead staff member in redistricting after the early 1980s and again in 1990. During a talk with local business leaders at the Plaza Hotel in Halfway on Wednesday, he described himself as the mechanic of redistricting.

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Legislative leaders such as Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's, will tell him their political goals and he will draw the lines on a map.

Because the population of far Western Maryland has been dropping, it's likely that the district Taylor currently holds will be redrawn to include part of Washington County.

Taylor represented part of western Washington County for 12 years, until the last boundary change that took effect for the 1994 election.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Taylor said it's likely that his district will again stretch into Washington County, the only question is how far.

"I think it's great. I had a wonderful experience representing Washington County," he said.

Aro's best guess is that the new district will encompass 3,000 to 4,000 people from western Washington County.

The other big redistricting issue for Washington County is in the eastern part of the county, which is represented by lawmakers who live in Frederick County, Md.

It isn't likely that there are enough people to create a single-member district there, he said.

If estimates are correct, Maryland's population will increase to about 5.2 million, he said. Because the number of elected officials remains fixed by the state Constitution, the ideal size of each district will grow from 100,000 to 111,000 people.

A lot of things could happen during the process, which Aro described as "political bloodsport."

It's perfectly legal to redraw the lines to benefit a particular political party or in order to protect incumbent lawmakers, he said.

Many lawmakers will come to Aro with questions and requests for redistricting plans.

"My carpet will be worn out," said Aro, who wrote 600 to 700 plans in 1991 and 1992.

New technology will allow anyone with a knowledge of computer database programs to come up with their own redistricting scenarios, he said.

The public will have a chance to comment during the process. Gov. Parris Glendening may appoint a task force next summer and fall, Aro said.

The plan must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2002. But even then the issue won't be settled because virtually all redistricting plans are challenged in court.

At the same time it's changing the boundaries for state legislative districts, the Maryland General Assembly also will redraw the state's eight congressional districts.

Taylor said he would like the General Assembly to handle the congressional plan the same way it did 10 years ago, by calling a special session next fall.

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