Category Archives: redistricting

Redistricting’s Biggest Losers

The current crop of state legislators is just one year into their current term. But after next year’s session they’ll have to begin grappling with redistricting—one of the most potentially divisive issues that the General Assembly faces. The State Constitution gives Republican Governor Hogan the upper hand in theory. However, the Democratic supermajority can impose their own plan if they remain united.

Population shifts along with Maryland’s requirement to adhere to county and municipal boundaries where possible without violating the federal Voting Rights Act create clear winners and losers in the process.

Which districts are most below the ideal population for a district? Once again, Baltimore City looks set to play an evil game of musical chairs, as its districts will be below the ideal district population. Here are the districts falling shortest in population according to the 2013-2017 American Community Survey estimates:

  1. Baltimore City District 40, 86.5% of ideal.
  2. Baltimore City District 45, 90.6%.
  3. Baltimore City District 41, 91.0%.
  4. Baltimore County District 44B (2 delegates), 92.5%.
  5. Baltimore County District 43, 93.0%.
  6. Allegany/Washington Counties 1C (1 delegate), 93.3%.
  7. Prince George’s District 25, 93.4%.
  8. Baltimore City District 44A, 93.8%.
  9. Prince George’s District 23A (1 delegate), 94.0%.
  10. Garrett/Allegany Counties 1A (1 delegate), 94.8%.
  11. Prince George’s District 24, 94.8%.
  12. Allegany County 1B (1 delegate), 95.7%.

As these estimates are based on surveys conducted between 2013 and 2017, they likely indicate only 50% of the decade’s changes. Unless population dynamics change a lot towards the end of the 2010s, these areas will likely be farther below the state requirement by the 2020 Census.

When possible, Maryland reallocates prisoners back to their home last place of residence, which may aid some districts a bit but will further hurt districts where prisons are located. For example, prisoners housed at Frostburg located in District 1, already one of the biggest losers, will be allocated back to their previous residence where possible. As in past decades, District 1 will have to continue its steady march east into Washington County with Garrett’s share of District 1A declining again.

Baltimore City faces a much greater challenge. It currently has five full legislative districts along with a one delegate subdistrict. However, based on the survey, it only now merits 4.85 districts. One delegate is already gone with Subdistrict 44A the obvious nominee to take the hit.

My guess is that, even after adding prisoners back, population figures could make the case for taking one more delegate away (i.e. straddling one district into Baltimore County as now). No doubt Baltimore legislators will fight fiercely to keep the whole district within the City in the name of respecting municipal boundaries. Republicans won’t like this idea but will be ill-positioned to stop it if Democrats can remain united around a plan.

Assuming Baltimore City succeeds in staunching the hemorrhage, Districts 40 would slide west and District 41 would ooze south to eat up disappearing District 44A. Districts 43, 45 and 46 would then move west a bit into current Districts 40 and 41 to even out population across the City a bit. Other line changes could occur if, for example, a powerful legislator wants to draw the home of a possible challenger or successor out or into the district.

The fun and acrimony are just getting started.


Looking Ahead to Redistricting the General Assembly, Part I

Today, I begin a series looking at the likely impact of redistricting the General Assembly based on the latest population estimates for 2020. Note that the estimates are based on the population–not the population after the prison population has been redistributed to their homes as required by Maryland law.

Western Maryland

This region of the State was slightly underrepresented–at least before the prison population was redistributed–with two districts after 2010 but will merit exactly this number in 2020. District 1A, centered on Garrett, may need to take in a bit more of Allegany with Garrett comprising just over two-thirds of the district.

District 1B can remain wholly within Allegany but District 1C may need to move further into Washington County to make up the numbers depending upon how the lines are drawn. The remainder of Washington will remain District 2.

Eastern Shore

Except for Wicomico, all Eastern Shore counties will merit very slightly less representation in Annapolis in 2020. The changes, however, are so small that few alterations should be expected unless mapmakers want to realign boundaries for other reasons, such as efforts to shore up or to weaken Sen. Jim Mathias (D 38).

District 38’s subdistricts could also be rearranged. Prior to 2010, there were two instead of three subdistricts with the smaller of the two centered on Somerset. Democrats will surely want to keep District 38A and to keep it attached to African-American sections of Worcester in the hopes that—if Democrats ever bother to invest in upping Somerset’s abysmal Democratic turnout—they could win a second delegate seat on the Shore. For now, it remains heavily Republican with incumbent Del. Otto winning easily with 60% in 2014.

District 37A will need to remain in place to protect African-American representation and satisfy the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Democrats will want to keep it as it is the only district on the Shore certain to elect a Democrat.



More Hogan Hypocrisy

Can we please stop pretending that Gov. Larry Hogan is a swell bipartisan guy?

Larry Hogan has been railing against gerrymandering in Maryland for some time. So it should have been an easy lift when seven Democratic U.S. House members asked him to support national redistricting reform.

Hogan turned them down flat.

If Hogan was really cared about fairer methods of drawing congressional districts, he would have said he’d be glad to do it. Or, at least, that he would be happy to support their bill for national reform if they’d support his efforts in Maryland. But not our Larry.

If you didn’t get the message, his public comments made crystal clear that Hogan only cares about redistricting reform because he thinks it will benefit Maryland Republicans. As he turned down national redistricting reform, he touted that several Democrats could “lose their seats” under his proposed reform.

This is part of a larger Republican pattern. Republicans fought redistricting reform tooth and nail in Arizona, trying to get the initiative overturned in court and then suing to overturn the plans passed by the nonpartisan commission. In Florida, a court recently imposed a new plan to overturn a gerrymander enacted by Republicans in violation of a reform initiative. Republicans have enacted congressional gerrymanders in major states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.

In contrast, Democratic California has a reformed commission system. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a redistricting reform that will go into effect with the next census. A rare bright spot for bipartisanship was acceptance by both parties of a reform plan for the state legislature (but not Congress) in Ohio.

Republicans like Hogan favor redistricting reform in Maryland not because it is generally the right thing to do but to gain advantage. Put another way, our governor cared enough go out of state to campaign for Chris Christie for president but he can’t be bothered to support national redistricting reform because that is a “federal” issue.

As when he threw his public tantrum to defend Trump, Hogan has shown his very partisan colors. It’s really time that the press and commentators stopped pretending otherwise.


Projected Impact of Congressional Reapportionment in 2020


Election Data Services (EDS) has produced its annual projection of seat gains and losses for the U.S. House. As usual, Maryland is not expected to gain or to lose a seat in 2020. The average district will contain just over 783,000 people in Maryland.

We are closer to gaining a ninth seat than to losing our eight seat. According to EDS, Maryland would require 293,188 more people than expected to gain a seat. On the other hand, the Census would need to show 485,502 people than projected to lose a seat.

States Expected to Gain Seats

Arizona +1 (from 9 to 10)
Colorado +1 (from 7 to 8)
Florida +2 (from 27 to 29)
North Carolina +1 (from 13 to 14)
Oregon +1 (from 5 to 6)
Texas +3 (from 36 to 39)

California and Virginia are the nearest other states to gaining a seat. A gain of just 29,302 people would give California the last seat in the U.S. House instead of Florida. Virginia missed gaining one more seat by 69,841 people.

Similarly, the lost of 15,608 people by Florida would cost the Sunshine State its second additional seat. Arizona would gain no new seats if it has 13,741 fewer people than expected.

States Expected to Lose Seats

Alabama -1 (from 7 to 6)
Illinois -1 (from 18 to 17)
Michigan -1 (from 14 to 13)
Minnesota -1 (from 8 to 7)
New York -1 (from 27 to 26)
Ohio -1 (from 16 to 15)
Pennsylvania -1 (from 18 to 17)
Rhode Island -1 (from 2 to 1)
West Virginia -1 (from 3 to 2)

These counts do not include overseas military personnel. In 2000, their inclusion shifted a district from Utah to North Carolina.


BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court Gives New Life to Challenge to MD Congressional Districts

CDMDReversing a decision by the Fourth Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that a federal district court judge erred in dismissing a suit against Maryland’s redistricting plan on First Amendment grounds without letting it go before a three-judge panel. As a result, the case is remanded, presumably so that the petitioner can make his case before a three-judge panel.

Winning a rehearing on an appeal over improper procedure is a long way from winning the challenge. Still, it gives new judicial life to a debate over the legality over Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan that the State had thought had been put to bed. (h/t Rick Hasen).

The opinion of the court can also be found here:
Shapiro v. McManus (2015)


Dems Attack Redistricting Reform Proposal

The following is a press release from the Maryland Democratic Party (you can read my analysis of the partisan impact of the proposals here):

Annapolis, MD – Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director Pat Murray released the following statement on the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission’s recommendations:
“Larry Hogan’s hand-picked commissioners received their marching orders on the day they were appointed. The outcome was predetermined by a small group of Republican insiders, the process lacked transparency, and the recommendations are fundamentally flawed.
“Congressional districting is a national issue, and it deserves a national solution. Republicans drew the lines in six of the nation’s ten most gerrymandered states and eight of the nation’s ten most gerrymandered districts. If Larry Hogan is serious about reform, he should ask his allies in the GOP-controlled Congress to schedule hearings on legislation to provide a national solution.”

No Wonder Republicans Love the Idea of Redistricting Reform

CompliantThe Governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission has hashed out a set of recommendations for redistricting reform. No doubt Common Cause, the Washington Post, and Gov. Larry Hogan will hail them as major progress toward a fairer redistricting process.

I look forward to reading the detailed, final recommendations but, based on reports in the media, the Democrats would be committing political malpractice to accept them.

According to Maryland Reporter, “The commission will recommend that any new independent commission apply current state standards for legislative districts to congressional redistricting.” As they note, current requirements for state legislative districts include:

  1. Equal populations
  2. Adherence to the Voting Rights Act
  3. Contiguity and compactness
  4. Minimize disruption of political subdivisions.

Congressional plans already have to adhere to the first two requirements as well as create contiguous districts. Compactness and minimizing the disruption of political boundaries would be new. Both would likely hurt Democrats, particularly the command to minimize disruption of political subdivisions.

Consider the above map, which I drew quickly as a plan that might comply with the Commission’s recommendations. The districts are about equal in population and it still contains two districts in which blacks form a majority of the voting-age population.

Due to Maryland’s geography and the need to minimize disruption of County boundaries, it is a virtual certainty that Republican districts would have to be drawn in both Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

Unsurprisingly, as indicated in the table below, both would be safe Republican territory. President Obama won just 41% of the vote in each of them in 2012. That one change alone would take the current delegation from 7-1 Democratic to 6-2 Democratic.

CompliantStatsDemocrats are highly concentrated in certain portions of Maryland. That fact combined with the requirement to minimize crossing county and municipal boundaries would make more likely the inclusion of yet a third Republican district. In this plan, the Eighth District (Anne Arundel, Calvert, and St. Mary’s County) would favor Republicans, as President Obama won only 47% of the vote there.

This would take the overall delegation from 7-1 to 5-3–a real victory for Republicans. No doubt advocates for redistricting reform will say that this is very fair, as this would more closely match the partisan division of the state.

Except that parties usually receive a significant bonus in seats when they have as solid an advantage as the Democrats do in Maryland. The current plan has very erose boundaries. But the results are not unusual for states where one party is highly dominant at the federal level, as Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Utah demonstrate.

Democrats might try to force the creation of at least six Democratic districts. However, Republicans would be sure to sue if they could produce a plan that violated fewer county and municipal boundaries while complying with other provisions.

Unilateral Disarmament?

In 2010, Maryland was one of the few states in which Democrats controlled redistricting. Unquestionably, Maryland’s lines squirm around the State–more for incumbency protection than necessary for partisan reasons.

Republicans, however, have zero problem drawing odd lines or using their power to advantage their party when they control the process. In 2012, Democrats won a majority of the U.S. House vote in North Carolina but only won 3 of 13 congressional districts.

If Gov. Hogan could bring the gospel of redistricting reform to more large Republican states, it would be easier for Maryland Democrats to follow. Right now, it is hard to imagine why the Democrats would assent to a reform that assures Republican gains–possibly as many as if they got to draw the lines.


Redistricting Forum at UMD


Redistricting Reform in Maryland: Challenges and Solutions Forum to Analyze Next Steps for Reform in Maryland, Nationwide

The Tame the Gerrymander coalition will hold a public forum focused on efforts to replace gerrymandering with a fair and open process to draw congressional and state-legislative district lines. Speakers will include Congressman John Delaney of Maryland, Maryland Delegate Aisha Braveboy and Dan Vicuna, the National Redistricting Coordinator for Common Cause.  Speakers at the forum, all veterans of the uphill battle against gerrymandering, will discuss the problem with the current system and possible solutions that are introduced in Congress and working in states across the country.

The event is being hosted by the Norman and Florence Brody Public Policy Forum at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and is a project of Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, and the National Council of Jewish Women Annapolis Section.

The forum is a follow-up to “The Gerrymander Meander,” a 225-mile relay last month in Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District to highlight the need for reform.

When: November 10th; doors open 5:15 (light refreshments will be served)

Forum starts at 6:00pm.

Where: Executive Dining Room, 2517 Van Munching Hall

School of Business, University of Maryland College Park

(From Campus Drive, turn right at the circle onto Mowatt Lane. Follow signs to Visitor Parking. Van Munching Hall is on your left; free parking is available on the left in Mowatt Lane Parking Garage.)

Who:   Doug Besharov, Moderator and Host (Norman and Florence Brody Professor, UMD School of Public Policy)

Congressman John Delaney (Congressional 6)
Delegate Aisha Braveboy (Legislative 25)
Dan Vicuna (National Redistricting Coordinator, Common Cause)


For more information, contact:

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, 410-303-7954, (Common Cause Maryland)

Nancy Soreng, 301-642-5479, (League of Women Voters of Maryland)


Salisbury Political Shift


The New City Council Plans to Replace this Redistricting Plan Enacted by the Previous City Council

Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton spent much of his first term battling the five-member City Council. While Ireton wanted to pursue his reform agenda, a majority on the Council did its best to block him every step of the way. Indeed, they went so far as to amend the City Charter to transfer control of the City Attorney from the Mayor to the Council.

The 2013 city election and a new redistricting plan should change all that. In 2013, Mayor Ireton won a second term with 68% of the vote over right-wing blogger Joseph Albaro, Jr. Equally interesting, challenger Jake Day trounced incumbent City Council President Debbie Campbell with 71% of the vote, thus shifting the majority on the City Council away from Ireton’s opponents. Day is the new president of the City Council.

One of the orders of business for the reelected Mayor and changed City Council is to resolve the standoff over redistricting. During the past decade, Salisbury had two districts–one a black-majority district that elected a single councilmember and one a white-majority district that elected four councilmembers.

The old Council’s majority had enacted a proposal (shown in the top graphic) to redistrict such that Salisbury would retain two districts but the majority-minority district had two members while the white majority district had three. From their perspective, this plan had the major virtue of concentrating their opponents within the smaller majority-minority district. Both the ACLU and the Wicomico chapter of the NAACP objected to the redistricting plan.

Besides making it easier for Ireton’s opponents to win election from white-majority district, the plan has also allowed the Camden neighborhood within Salisbury to elect a disproportionate share of councilmembers. Not a problem unknown here in Montgomery County where Silver Spring/Takoma Park dominate three of the four at-large County Council seats.

The new redistricting plan never went into effect, though there is a dispute as to why according to delmarvanow:

The city can’t overhaul its districts alone. A 1987 federal consent order requires any substantive changes to be approved by a federal judge. . . .

Although the council formally voted on the plan at the time, City Attorney Mark Tilghman said the council never directed him to file court documents.

“I did not feel like I was authorized to proceed until this day, and I have been anxious to do that,” he said.

Ireton would have had nothing to do with the action, Mitchell said, because the Cohen-led council had changed the City Charter to transfer the attorney from under the mayor’s office to under the council’s control.

The new Council plans to adopt a new plan with five single-member districts (SMDs) that breaks Camden’s dominance on a more permanent basis. SMDs would eliminated the ability of a bloc vote to control the majority elected from the single multimember white-majority district. Put another way, it makes more likely that councilmembers reflecting a range of viewpoints will win election. The new plan will include two majority-minority districts.

But the real question is, now that Mayor Ireton has a more congenial City Council, what’s next for Salisbury?



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.


Cecil County: Five commissioners with staggered terms.

Cecil Districts


Garrett County: Three commissioners.

Garrett 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



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.



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

Wicomico Districts