Nicole Y. Drew reminded a Maryland General Assembly redistricting commission that as it continues to assess and redraw the state’s eight Congressional maps, be careful not to diminish minority representation.
“We do continue to ask that the voting power and participation in communities of color, particularly in the Black communities, are not diluted or sacrificed when drawing map lines, recognizing that many of our members are part of many of the densely populated areas in the state,” said Drew, who spoke first during a two-hour virtual session Monday, Nov. 15 and represented one of the 25 Maryland chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
The commission released four “concept” maps last week with two of them proposing to extend the 1st Congressional District across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge into parts of Democratic areas in Anne Arundel County.
The 1st District represented by Rep. Andy Harris currently runs north and south with a heavy GOP influence along the Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties.
Harris, an anesthesiologist from Baltimore County and the state’s only congressional GOP member, supports former Republican President Donald Trump, serves as a member of the House Freedom Caucus and voted against the certification of last year’s presidential election results.
The maps have received national attention because they could possibly ensure Maryland Democrats oversee all eight congressional districts.
Harris expressed confidence in a Fox News interview he could still win in the June 28 primary and in next year’s general election.
He said the maps “are still quite gerrymandered but not quite as much as the current districts. All four proposed maps would likely result in a 7-1 delegation.”
It all depends on how state lawmakers would redraw the maps during a special session on Dec. 6 where the legislature holds a heavily Democratic advantage.
Former state Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat from Kent County, officially filed with the state Board of Elections to seek the 1st District seat. Harris hasn’t officially filed to seek another two-year term but another Democrat — R. David Harden of Carroll County — has.
Several residents including Deepa Patel said they want fair, competitive maps, especially in the 1st Congressional District. Patel supports the third concept map, which pushes that district further west into Anne Arundel County and relocates her residence in Cecil County into the 2nd Congressional District.
“I was born and raised in Elkton, Maryland, . . . but I have never felt a part of the community when it comes to our representatives,” she said. “We have been an uncompetitive district from the beginning. It is packed full of Republicans and doesn’t give minorities a vote.”
In Prince George’s County, two of the four maps propose to shift the 4th Congressional District slightly northeast across Interstate 95 to include the city of New Carrollton and stretch into parts of Lanham. The land currently sits in the 5th Congressional District represented by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland).
However, a Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan keeps some of the eight districts intact which includes Patel’s jurisdiction of Cecil County all the way to the Pennsylvania border. One congressional district centers on Baltimore City with parts of Anne Arundel County to the south and creates a Western Maryland district that could help a second Republican get elected to Congress.
A Princeton University “Gerrymandering Project” released a report card Thursday, Nov. 11 on Maryland’s redistricting efforts and gave the citizens commission an “A” on partisan fairness. The four maps from the legislative group, however, received an “F.”
In the meantime, Monique Cephas of Baltimore County summarized how the state’s third most populated jurisdiction saw an increase in the Black population from 20.2% in 2000 to nearly 30% last year.
“The rate of African Americans is predicted to grow even more over the next 10 years,” said Cephas, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “We desire to see the maps reflect . . . greater diversity, inclusiveness, equity and community engagement.”