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New Md. legislative map moves south county back into District 2

December 16, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

A proposed state legislative redistricting plan released Friday would cut Washington County's delegation from eight to six members and combine two local subdistricts into one.

Two precincts at the southern tip of Washington County, around Dargan and Sandy Hook, would move from District 3 into District 2.

As a result, a Republican delegate and a Democratic state senator from Frederick County who represented those two precincts would no longer be part of Washington County's delegation.

The current subdistricts 2A and 2B would be melded into one subdistrict with two members.

Currently, Republican Del. Andrew A. Serafini represents Subdistrict 2A, which includes Cascade and Smithsburg in the northeastern part of the county and runs along the county's northern border, then south to Williamsport.

Republican Del. Neil C. Parrott represents Subdistrict 2B, which starts just east of Hagerstown and goes south through Boonsboro and past Rohrersville and Gapland.

In addition, what appears to be a single precinct in the current Subdistrict 2A — in and around Williamsport — would move from the current Subdistrict 2A to Subdistrict 1C, where the delegate is Republican LeRoy E. Myers Jr.

The legislative redistricting process is done every 10 years because of changes in population gleaned through the U.S. Census.

The Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee, which held hearings across the state, released maps showing proposed new boundaries on Friday.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. in the Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building in Annapolis.

The Maryland General Assembly will discuss and vote on a final plan during its 2012 session, which begins next month.

The legislature already has approved new boundaries for Maryland's eight congressional districts, although the plan is being challenged in court.

In a news release issued Friday through the Maryland Department of Planning the mostly Democratic redistricting committee said the new statewide maps have 12 districts with a majority of African Americans, up from 10 in the final plan that the Maryland Court of Appeals created in 2002 after a court challenge.

Another four districts in the new plan have a majority of people who are minorities.

The committee reported that there would be 13 places where a district crosses county lines, down from 14 in the 2002 plan.

The committee said its recommendations "treat all regions of the State, and both political parties, fairly."

The same committee produced a plan that reshaped Maryland's 6th Congressional District, making it easier for a Democrat to win and tougher for 10-term Republican Roscoe G. Bartlett to hold onto his seat.

'Political reasons'

Combining subdistricts 2A and 2B in the new legislative redistricting map "was purposely done for political reasons," Myers charged.

He said the intent was to punish Parrott for leading the opposition to a new law granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.

Even though 2A and 2B are likely to keep electing Republicans, combining the two subdistricts increases the potential pool of people who could unseat Parrott in the next election, Myers said.

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Parrott said he didn't think the proposed two-member district was an attack on him. If Democrats think they could unseat him by having him also represent Subdistrict 2A, they're mistaken because 2A probably is more conservative than 2B, he said.

Rather, Parrott said he sees the newly drawn district as a chance to represent more of Washington County and he looks forward to it.

Serafini was noncommital about Myers' theory.

He said that roughly doubling the number of constituents for a delegate makes the job more challenging, but Washington County commissioners represent a broad territory, so state lawmakers can, too.

Shank said it's too soon to speculate on possible political repercussions of the new local boundaries in the next election.

Combining subdistricts 2A and 2B isn't "earth shattering," but it will mean "a lot more constituent service," he said.

As for the loss of two members of the delegation, Shank said it was expected.

He said he considers Republican Del. Michael J. Hough and Democratic Sen. Ronald N. Young, who represent small portions of southern Washington County, "valuable partners."

Since Western Maryland legislators share many of the same concerns, "we all have each others' backs," Shank said.

Myers and Serafini said the new boundaries would make life easier for Hough and Young, who had to stay in touch with Washington County issues and attend events even though they represented just two of the county's precincts.

Without Hough and Young, Washington County's delegation would have five Republicans and one Democrat.

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