Category Archives: County Government

GOP Moves Forward in Six Counties

The Republicans had a good Tuesday night, capturing the governor’s mansion and making gains, albeit limited, in both houses of the General Assembly. The GOP also made gains in six counties. Summing up the night–they went from 25% to 44% of county executives and from 54% to 56% of council seats.

The most exciting pickups for the Republicans are the two county executives, including taking the top chair in red-leaning Wicomico, But the Republicans had a real coup with Alan Kittleman’s victory in Howard–an increasingly Democratic county that went for Hogan as well as Kittleman.

County Councils

Republicans also made gains in four county councils: Baltimore, Harford, St. Mary’s, and Talbot. In the latter three, the Republicans knocked all of the remaining Democrats by taking their last two seats in Harford and one seat in St. Mary’s and Talbot. In Baltimore, the Democratic majority shrank from 5-2 to 4-3 with the loss of retiring Councilmember John Olszewski Senior’s seat.

The one bright spot of the night was Frederick. Though the two Democratic Youngs won, the tea-party Republican son of Sen. Young lost the battle to become Frederick’s first county executive. The Democrats also picked up two seats on the new expanded Council. One Republican seat is sufficiently close that there is an outside chance that absentees could flip it to the Democrats.

The same four jurisdictions completely dominated by the Democrats before the election–Baltimore City, Charles, Montgomery, and Prince George’s–remain so afterwards.  Republicans wholly controlled eight counties before the election: Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carrol, Cecil, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, and Washington. They have now added three more with Harford, St. Mary’s, and Talbot for a total of 12–a majority of all of the 23 jurisdictions, though certainly not the most populous ones.

The partisan state of play remains unchanged in purple Anne Arundel, Dorchester, Kent, Somerset, and Worcester. Anne Arundel will have the interesting challenge of dealing with secessionist theocrat Michael Peroutka on the Council. And just when they hoped things were finally settling down after the rather eventful departure of disgraced County Executive John Leopold.

No Councils flipped control. However, Howard’s Democratic majority will face a Republican executive, while Wicomico now has unified government with a Republican executive and council.

Share

County Council District Maps

This post is a collection of the new councilmanic district maps from around Maryland. I have done my best to make sure that they are the new rather the old districts but please let me know if any are outdated and where I might find the new map.

They are organized by the type of electoral system used by the county starting with (1) elected at-large with district residency requirements followed by (2) elected entirely from districts, and (3) elected by a mixture of districts and at-large. Counties are listed alphabetically within each category.

ALL ELECTED AT-LARGE WITH A RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

Cecil County: Five commissioners with staggered terms.

Cecil Districts

 

Garrett County: Three commissioners.

Garrett Districts

 

ALL ELECTED FROM DISTRICTS

Anne Arundel: Seven councilmembers.

AA Districts

 

Baltimore County: Seven councilmembers.

BaltCo Districts

 

Carroll County: five commissioners.

Carroll Districts

 

Dorchester County: five councilmembers.

Dorchester Districts

 

Howard County: five councilmembers.

Howard Districts

 

Prince George’s: nine councilmembers.

PG Districts

 

Somerset County: five commissioners (unclear if these are the old or new districts).

Somerset Districts

 

Worcester County: seven commissioners.

Worcester Districts

 

MIXED

Baltimore City: 14 councilmembers elected from districts and the Council President elected at-large.

BaltCity Districts

 

Frederick County: five councilmembers elected from districts and two elected at-large.

Frederick Districts

 

Harford County: six councilmembers elected from districts and the council president elected at-large.

Harford Districts

 

Montgomery County: five councilmembers elected from districts and four elected at-large.

council_districts

 

Wicomico County: five councilmembers elected from districts and two elected at-large.

Wicomico Districts

 

Share

How Electoral Rules Shape County Council Partisanship

maryland-county-map

Maryland counties use a number of different methods to elect their county legislatures (see below for a description of how each county conducts its elections). The rules of the electoral game influence the outcome, as at-large elections facilitate one-party sweeps.

Twelve counties elect their councils entirely at-large throughout the county. The number will decline to eleven when Frederick elects its first charter government this year. Cecil and Garrett have district residency requirements for candidates but still elect them at-large. Cecil also staggers its elections.

Nine of the twelve counties with solely at-large elections have legislatures with members from only one party. In the remaining three, there is only one minority (Democratic) representative. (Of course, Kent has only three commissioners so the minority has to consist of only one commissioner.)

Eight counties elect their councils entirely from single-member districts. Districts can help with compliance with the Voting Rights Act by preventing the submergence of minorities among larger minority populations. Worcester County, for example, has a black district that resulted from voting rights litigation.

Districts also facilitate minority party representation. Only two of the eight counties elected entirely by district have single-party governments. Districts enable minority party representation so long as the minority comprises a majority within one of the districts. Minorities can still fail to win representation if their support is evenly distributed or just too weak, as in Carroll and Prince George’s Counties.

Three counties and Baltimore City elect their legislatures via a mixture of single-member districts and at-large. Baltimore City and Harford elect all councilmembers from districts except the city/county council president. Frederick will adopt Wicomico’s system of five from districts and two at-large when it elects its first charter government this year.

Uniquely, Montgomery elects four at-large in addition to five from districts. In this populous county, at-large councilmembers represent significantly more people than Members of Congress. And even the district councilmembers have roughly 200,000 constituents.

Among counties with mixed systems, heavily Democratic Baltimore City and Montgomery County have entirely Democratic councils. Harford and Wicomico have Republican majority counties with Democratic minorities.

Next Up: Ideas for creating more competition in Montgomery.

ALL ELECTED AT-LARGE

Allegany: three commissioners.

Calvert: five commissioners.

Caroline: three commissioners.

Cecil: five councilmembers. There are five districts and residency requirements but county voters elect all five. Elections are staggered so that the election of two coincides with the presidential election and three with the gubernatorial election.

Charles: five commissioners.

Frederick: five commissioners (through 2010).

Garrett: three commissioners. There are three districts and residency requirements but county voters elect all at-large.

Kent: three commissioners.

Queen Anne’s: five commissioners.

St. Mary’s: five commissioners.

Talbot: five councilmembers.

Washington: five commissioners.

ALL ELECTED FROM DISTRICTS

Anne Arundel: seven councilmembers.

Baltimore County: seven councilmembers.

Carroll: five commissioners.

Dorchester: five councilmembers.

Howard: five councilmembers.

Prince George’s: nine councilmembers.

Somerset: five commissioners.

Worcester: seven commissioners.

MIXED

Baltimore City elects 14 councilmembers from districts and the city council president at-large.

Starting in 2014, Frederick will elect five councilmembers from districts and two at-large.

Harford elects six councilmembers from districts and the council president-large.

Montgomery elects five councilmembers from districts and four at-large.

Wicomico elects five councilmembers from districts and two at-large.

Share

Monopoly County Politics

terpopolyFear this Turtle?

As the last post detailed, a majority of Maryland counties have legislatures with representatives from only one party. Democrats in my home county of Montgomery enjoy their hyperdominant status, and celebrated heartily the electoral demise of the County’s last Republican officials in the 1990s.

One-party monopolies create a number of problems. In this case, I am not referring to unified party control of the legislature and executive, as in the case of the Maryland State Government with Democrats holding both houses of the General Assembly as well as the Governor’s Mansion. Instead, in this context, single-party control references when one party controls government so thoroughly that there is no meaningful opposition.

Political scientists have long observed that problems can arise for democratic governance when one party controls politics so thoroughly that there is no real electoral competition in the general election. (V. O. Key was a pioneer in this area and his classic work on Southern Politics inspired many of my thoughts here.)

First, the party primaries of one party become the key election in place of the general election. Only a small fraction of voters choose the party’s nominee (read: elect the official). In Maryland, turnout is already lower in gubernatorial than presidental election years and turnout is far lower in primaries than in general elections. Moreover, despite one-party dominance, many still remain registered as independents or with another party, further shrinking the share participating in the one meaningful contest.

Think the case is overstated? In Montgomery County, 83,827 voted in the 2010 Democratic primary–just 14.7% of the County’s 569,234 eligible voters. Prince George’s did a little better because the County has fewer non-Democrats with 96,652 casting ballots in the Democratic primary out of 498,718 eligible voters–19.4%.

This same effect also occurs in Republican counties, though the impact is somewhat less drastic. In Carroll County, 19,845 voted in the 2010 Republican primary, 22.8% of all eligible voters. In Garrett County, 5,398 cast ballots in the GOP primary, forming 33.2% of the 16,256 eligible.

Second, it leads to disorganized politics and makes it difficult to hold government accountable. For the all the derision directed at parties and partisanship, political parties serve extremely valuable purposes. The collage of views that animate each party organize politics for voters. In elections, the party label is a recognizable brand, which provides a quick cue to voters looking to cast a ballot. We rely on similar shortcuts in many aspects of life.

Places without a viable opposition party lack these cues and organization because all the action takes place in the primary. Parsing differences between candidates is difficult without party labels. Voters have to work much harder.

The absence of party divisions also makes it more difficult to vote based on the basis of overall satisfaction with the government. When one party is so strongly dominant, it is more difficult to throw out the “ins” and replace them with the “outs” because  there is no viable opposition and the “ins” and the “outs” belong to one party.

Additionally, in single-party places, one party tends to accommodate a  larger range of views as people gravitate to the party of power. Occasionally, clear factions will appear within parties, as with Doug Duncan’s 2002 “End Gridlock” slate. But such linkages tend to be ephemeral and the labels don’t appear on the ballot. It can also make it easier for individual politicians to shift positions over time since there are a panoply of views within one party.

All of this helps explain why the Montgomery County Council is perpetually so factionalized with shifting alliances that are often based on personality conflicts and not issues. There are genuine issue differences in Montgomery but there is no party alignment to help organize them and make it easier for voters to hold officials accountable for their decisions.

The next post on county politics will begin to explore the causes of one-party counties and ideas about what we can do about it to produce better governance.

 

Share

Partisan Breakdown of County Governments

CountyCouncils

Pre-2014 Election County Executives and Councils

Maryland has fewer subdivisions than almost any other state with just 23 counties and one independent city. Except Baltimore City, all elect their legislatures–Councils or Commission–at the same time as the gubernatorial election. Starting in 2016, Baltimore’s City will be in sync with the presidential election cycle.

Besides legislatures, eight counties with home rule charters directly elect a county executive, functionally equivalent to that of mayor–the title given to Baltimore City’s executive. Frederick County’s voters approved its charter in 2012 and will elect its first county executive this year.

The above table shows the pre-2014 election partisan breakdown of county executives and legislatures for all counties and Baltimore City, highlighting one party counties based on the party of the legislature with red indicating Republican and blue Democratic counties .

Nine have only Republican legislatures (and executives): Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Queen Anne’s, and Washington. Four are solidly Democratic: Baltimore City, Charles, Montgomery, and Prince George’s.

Most Republican counties are small, though Calvert, Carroll, Frederick, and Queen Anne’s are fast-growing exurbs. Calvert, Carroll and Queen Anne’s are all solidly Republican, though more overwhelmingly in Carroll than Calvert or Queen Anne’s. Frederick leans Republican but has been moving towards the Democrats. Whether the trend will continue strongly enough to push the County away from the GOP remains to be seen.

Three counties and Baltimore City sit in the Democratic camp. All are overwhelmingly Democratic with Republicans having next to no chance.  In Prince George’s, only one Republican has so far filed for a Council seat. Democrats would still hold a bare majority on the Montgomery Council even if every Republican candidate won. Republicans have filed for only two seats on the Charles Commission.

The remaining eleven counties have split councils or commissions, though many lean heavily to either the Democrats or the Republicans. Harford, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester list towards the Republicans, while Baltimore County and Howard favor the Democrats. Anne Arundel leans GOP but seems increasingly marginal for a place expected once to be a Republican bastion.

Due to the plentiful rural Republican counties, there are 75 Republican legislators compared to 65 Democrats in very blue Maryland. Must make politics for officer elections at the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) interesting.

 

Share