A new Maryland legislative map recently approved by the House of Delegates doesn’t present drastic shifts for the majority of the state’s second-largest jurisdiction of Prince George’s County.
For instance, District 47B will remain the state’s only majority Latino district that includes Langley Park and Adelphi currently represented by Del. Wanika Fisher of Hyattsville. A new legislator will assume that seat because Fisher has filed paperwork to run for County Council’s District 2.
A major change in the legislative map will be the elimination of subdistricts in District 23 – an area that mainly stretches north and south and includes Bowie and portions of Laurel and Upper Marlboro.
District 23A serves most of the Bowie area and southern Laurel led by Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith and District 23B further south serving portions of Bowie and Upper Marlboro led by Delegates Marvin Holmes, Jr. and Cheryl Landis.
State Sen. Ron Watson (D-Upper Marlboro) represents the entire district.
Michelle Davis, a senior policy analyst with the state Department of Legislative Services, during a House committee meeting last month, said Black residents represent about 65% of District 23.
“We are looking at a unified District 23 to make sure things are aligned and bring all those communities together,” said Keenon James of Upper Marlboro, one of five candidates who filed for District 23B. “It’s an opportunity right now. There will be three seats to serve the community.”
Another District 23B candidate, Kym Taylor of Bowie, said one of the biggest opportunities will be provided for students to apply for scholarships from three delegates versus those in the subdistricts.
“Now all of our students have an opportunity to apply for scholarships to each of their delegates,” she said. “All of District 23 is one big family.”
As of Saturday, Jan. 29, two other candidates that filed for District 23B include Jocelyn Collins and Remi Duyile, both of Upper Marlboro. Holmes, elected as a delegate in 2002, also filed paperwork to seek reelection. Monica Roebuck of Bowie remained the only person to file for the District 23A seat.
The redistricting process takes place every decade based on shifts in population through U.S. Census data. Maryland’s population of 6.2 million increased last year by 7% from 2010 and ranked fourth in being the most diverse state in the nation.
The overwhelming Democratic majority in the House of Delegates approved a new legislative map Thursday, Jan. 27.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who criticized the map and said there’s been a lack of transparency in the process, cannot use his power to veto this map. That’s why a potential lawsuit filed by Republican voters seems imminent.
Nine registered Republicans including Delegates Kathy Szeliga and Christopher T. Adams filed a lawsuit in December in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to challenge the new map of the state’s congressional districts.
After Thursday’s vote, a grassroots organization, Fair Maps Maryland, released a statement saying work continues with attorneys and election experts to prepare a suit in the Maryland Court of Appeals to challenge the legislative map.
“As we have said from the start, gerrymandering is voter suppression. Not only is it wrong, it’s illegal, and the Maryland legislature is guilty of it,” said spokesman Doug Mayer, a former communications manager for Hogan. “We will not stop until we have done everything in our power to put an end to gerrymandering in Maryland once and for all.”
Before Thursday’s vote, Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County) said a 2002 redistricting map approved by the court resembles the new map. More than 10 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to refrain from intervening in a suit opponents said drew partisan boundaries in the state’s 6th Congressional District.
“You can take it to court. The map will be found legally sufficient,” Wilson said. “You can bring a lawsuit up about anything. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win and your argument is going to pass legal muster.”
In the meantime, Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty with the state’s Court of Appeals issued a schedule Friday, Jan. 28 for those who want to challenge the legislative map and who must file a petition by 4:30 p.m., Feb. 10.
The state must file a response by Feb. 15. A hearing scheduled Feb. 17 will be overseen by retired Judge Alan M. Wilner who will serve as a special magistrate for the legal proceedings.
Prospective candidates willing to seek office have until Feb. 22 to file with the state Board of Elections to run in the June primary election.