PoliticsWilliam J. Ford

Maryland Legislative Redistricting Hearings Start in Prince George’s

A Maryland legislative committee began its listening tour in Prince George’s County on trying to work on drawing new maps to possibly restructure the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

Tracy Thompson with the county’s League of Women Voters represented the six people who testified at Prince George’s Community College in Largo “to make sure Prince George’s County residents are a part”  of the process.

The seven-member Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission will travel across the state to hear comments for a process done every 10 years to reflect changes in the state’s population based on census data.

The commission released “adjusted population” figures Monday, Sept. 20 from the 2020 Census including those housed at local jails and state prisons, but represent their last current home address.

Out of the nearly 6.2 million state residents, four counties increased population by double digits in a 10-year period outlined by the state: Frederick (16.4 percent); Howard (15.8 percent); Charles (13.7 percent); and Prince George’s (12 percent).

Part of a presentation focused on state senatorial districts represented by one person and districts represented by two or three delegates.

For instance, Dels. Julian Ivey and Diana Fennell represent District 47A that includes the municipalities and communities of Cheverly, Colmar Manor and parts of Chillum.

In the same vicinity of the county, Del. Wanika Fisher of Hyattsville represents District 47B including Adelphi, Langley Park and parts of Chillum.

Ashanti Martinez testifies at a public hearing before the Maryland Legislative Advisory Commission at Prince George's Community College in Largo on Sept. 20. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Ashanti Martinez testifies at a public hearing before the Maryland Legislative Advisory Commission at Prince George’s Community College in Largo on Sept. 20. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Ashanti Martinez of New Carrollton said District 47B should remain intact, especially representing one of the largest Latino and immigrant populations in the state.

“District 47B has been an example of how we are intentional in providing representation [to] allow communities to not only have a voice, but also produce diverse leaders,” said Martinez, who spoke on behalf of CASA as its research and policy analyst. “They should have leadership that speaks to that diversity.”

Between 2010 to 2020, the majority Black jurisdiction’s total population increased the fourth highest in Maryland by 12percent from 863,420 to 967,201.

Most of the growth in the last decade occurred in the northern and eastern part of the county, according to a state map presented Monday.

The commission – comprised of four Democrat and two Republican lawmakers – will host nine more public hearings and two virtual sessions through November chaired by Karl Aro, former executive director of the state’s nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services.

Registered Democrats in Maryland outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 ratio and hold seven of the eight congressional seats on Capitol Hill.

Democratic lawmakers also hold a supermajority in Annapolis holding more than 100 of the 188 seats in the General Assembly.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who convenes the commission with Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), said after Monday’s 32-minute hearing the main goal “is to listen to the citizens.”

“Some are very passionate in certain areas. Some have done more homework than others in terms of what they would like to see,” she said. “The commission will take [comments] into consideration and…gives us some measure of what we will be working with.”

Although the legislature has the authority to redraw the maps, another group held a more than three-hour virtual meeting Monday.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan created a nine-member Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission to assess and draw maps and conduct public hearings he plans to present to the General Assembly.

The majority of the meeting focused on St. Mary’s County, a rural county in Southern Maryland which currently splits legislative Districts 27B and 27C into portions of Prince Georges.

Several residents such as Betty Ann Quade expressed displeasure with a proposal to redraw a map that splits some communities from St. Mary’s into neighboring Calvert County.

Census data shows the population in Southern Maryland increased the second highest in the state at 9.6percent (Charles County at 13.7 percent; St. Mary’s at 8.2 percent; and Calvert at 4.6 percent).

“If we are pulled over…we will no longer have a voice for tourism [and] economic development,” said Quade, who owns Seabreeze Restaurant in St. Mary’s along the Patuxent River. “I feel like we will be lost without representation.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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