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Proposal would scramble legislative districts

December 20, 2001

Proposal would scramble legislative districts



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


Washington County would be represented in Annapolis by three senators and five delegates, one of whom is now the powerful House Speaker, under a proposed election redistricting plan.

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Politically, the plan would give all of the county's resident lawmakers a chance to be re-elected in 2002 and opens up an empty delegate seat straddling southern Washington County and Frederick counties.

It also appears the plan would help Del. Sue Hecht if she decides to run against Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

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The Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee released its recommendations Monday night and will take public comment at a hearing in Annapolis on Friday.

Gov. Parris Glendening will submit a final plan to the Maryland General Assembly on opening day Jan. 9. That plan becomes law unless the legislature acts within 45 days.

The proposal doesn't reflect the Washington County delegation's request to have everyone in the county represented by lawmakers who live in the county.

Some lawmakers said they recognized their wish was nearly impossible to fill based on the 2000 Census numbers that are driving the process.

"The numbers don't lie. In a perfect world it would be great if we could draw a line around Washington County. I think we made out very well," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

But Mooney, who referred to the plan as the "Annapolis establishment and Sue Hecht target Senator Mooney map," said it would hurt Washington County to benefit his potential Democratic challenger.

The plan lumps about 6,000 inmates at the prisons south of Hagerstown, who can't vote, with residents of southern Washington and Frederick counties, he said.

"I'm not sure what the convicted murderers and rapists in Washington County have in common with the hardworking families in Frederick County, but that's what Sue Hecht wanted," he said.

Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, was unavailable for comment.

Under the plan, people in Hancock and western Washington County would be drawn into a majority-Allegany County election district now represented by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a Democrat, and Sen. John J. Hafer, a Republican.

Likewise, about 11,150 people in Sharpsburg, Fairplay, Dargan and Pleasant Valley would be part of a new district shared with about 27,400 southern Frederick County residents.

The proposed plan is an improvement over the current one, under which residents of Smithsburg and Ringgold are represented by three delegates and a senator who live in Frederick County, said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

"The important thing is the people have access to their own delegate. There's more accountability," Shank said.

Shank said he has mixed feelings about the plan.

"I'm very sad to lose a good part of my district. I care about those people very much in Sharpsburg and Keedysville and Rohrersville," he said.

But Shank said he was glad that at least some of his constituents would be represented by a Washington County resident.

Under the plan, residents of Boonsboro would be included in a district now held by Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

The plan could hurt two of the delegates who now represent Frederick and Washington counties.

Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, and Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, live in an adjoining district that already has three Republican House members.

Bartlett said he would look at all his options, including moving, in order to improve his chances for re-election.

Bartlett questioned the rationale for making such drastic changes to the Washington County election districts.

Detailed maps and precinct breakdowns can be found on the Internet at www.mdp.state.md.us/redistrict.

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