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:
- Baltimore City District 40, 86.5% of ideal.
- Baltimore City District 45, 90.6%.
- Baltimore City District 41, 91.0%.
- Baltimore County District 44B (2 delegates), 92.5%.
- Baltimore County District 43, 93.0%.
- Allegany/Washington Counties 1C (1 delegate), 93.3%.
- Prince George’s District 25, 93.4%.
- Baltimore City District 44A, 93.8%.
- Prince George’s District 23A (1 delegate), 94.0%.
- Garrett/Allegany Counties 1A (1 delegate), 94.8%.
- Prince George’s District 24, 94.8%.
- 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.