The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled a redistricting map approved by Prince George’s Council in November will not be used to represent the jurisdiction’s new boundaries.
According to a 1½ page brief Monday, the court said a county map prepared by a three-member redistricting commission “shall be used for all purposes in acting upon or implementing the County’s redistricting plan.”
The court agreed with a January ruling by the county’s Circuit Court that the council needed to approve the new boundaries for the nine council districts through a bill, versus a resolution.
Council Chair Calvin Hawkins II (D-At-Large) of Upper Marlboro said in a statement Monday the county will “comply” with the court’s decision, but appealed the Circuit Court’s ruling based on a 2012 ballot initiative approved by the voters.
“Under the Council’s interpretation, the approval of this ballot initiative gave the Council authority to adopt the 2021 Redistricting Plan through Council Resolution, after notice to the public and a public hearing,” he said.
The three-member commission recommended only three major changes to the redistricting plan that included realigning the more than 6,000 residents in the city of District Heights from District 6 to District 7; shift nearly 4,100 residents from the Adelphi area from District 1 to District 2; and move 2,205 residents in Glenn Dale from District 3 to District 4, which would nearly combine all of Glenn Dale.
The commission approved the recommendations Aug. 30 and submitted its proposal to council Sept. 1.
Because a plan needed to be approved by Nov. 30, the Circuit Court judge ruled and the Court of Appeals agreed, the commission’s plan would go into effect.
The Council appointed the commission last year comprising of the Rev. James Robinson, pastor of Tree of Life Ministries in Clinton; Charlene Dukes, former president of Prince George’s Community College; and David Harrington, president and CEO of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.
Local officials must approve a plan that incorporates updated 2020 Census data for a process done every decade on changes in population within the county’s nine districts.
The county’s total population increased the fourth highest in Maryland by 12% from 863,420 to 967,201 between 2010 to 2020.
Meanwhile, the council’s map drew harsh criticism from residents, with more than 100 all speaking against the plan during a November public hearing, who said it reeked of gerrymandering and tore communities apart.
Some portions of the council plan move Joint Base Andrews from District 8 into District 9. It also shifts the city of Seat Pleasant from District 7 into District 5 and the town of Edmonston out of District 5 into District 2, which remains part of the Port Towns with Bladensburg, Colmar Manor and Cottage City.
One main contention from residents dealt with three more liberal candidates – Eric Olson of College Park, Krystal Oriadha of Seat Pleasant and Tamara Davis Brown of Clinton – sought to possibly run against current council members in Districts 3, 7 and 9, respectively. The council map removed them to neighboring districts.
However, Davis Brown filed last week to run for state Senate to represent District 26 in southern Prince George’s. Although the Maryland Board of Elections deadline to file paperwork to run for an election office isn’t until March 22, she plans to seek state office for the June 28 primary.
“I am delighted that democracy wins out over political gerrymandering,” she said. “[Council’s decision] was done so hastily as a back-door deal to punish certain competitors. This seems like justice.”
Olson already filed to represent District 3, which will be vacant because of the term limits for County Council member Dannielle Glaros. As of Monday, Eve Shuman and Sia Finoh also filed documents to run for the district.
Oridaha also declared her candidacy and would challenge County Council member Rodney Streeter of Hillcrest Heights, who hasn’t filed yet. Gary Falls, a Republican from Oxon Hill, represents the other candidate seeking to represent District 7.
“I think it is a shame that the county wasted resources fighting the appeal,” Oriadha said. “This is a big deal for the community and proved the system works. It really changes the landscape of this election.”
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks released a statement after Monday’s court ruling.
“I respect the rulings of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court and the Maryland Court of Appeals,” she said. “With this matter resolved, and the redistricting map designed by the Redistricting Commission now in place, our board of elections may now move forward with redrawing the council district lines.”