A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge ruled a redistricting plan County Council approved in November cannot go into effect.
Judge William A. Snoddy wrote in an opinion Monday, Jan. 31 the council’s vote to approve new district boundaries as a resolution should’ve been enacted as a bill.
“Under the County’s Charter, a resolution, while having the effect of law, is not a substitute for a law,” Snoddy wrote. “Prince George’s County Council shall immediately withdraw the redistricting plan and submit the [three-member county] commission’s plan…”
Spokesperson Karen Campbell released a statement on behalf of the council that it received the court order.
Because of the Maryland Board of Elections’ Feb. 22 deadline for prospective candidates to file paperwork for the June primary election, “the [judge’s] decision will be appealed immediately.”
A group of residents that included Robert Thurston Jr. of College Park filed a lawsuit last week against the county for what they and others who spoke against the council’s plan as gerrymandering and ripping communities apart.
Thurston and more than 150 people registered for a public hearing Nov. 16 to speak on the council’s plan. Everyone who spoke opposed the plan decided by a 6 to 3 vote.
Some portions of the council plan moved Joint Base Andrews from District 8 into District 9, shift the city of Seat Pleasant from District 7 into District 5 and the town of Edmonston out of District 5 into District 2.
One of the main complaints dealt with three more liberal candidates – Eric Olson of College Park, Krystal Oriadha of Seat Pleasant and Tamara 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.
Olson created a website and announced his intentions to run last year.
Oriadha officially announced her candidacy for District 7 on Monday night with an endorsement from former council member Monique Anderson-Walker, who resigned in November before council’s vote to concentrate as a running mate with Comptroller Peter Franchot seeking the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor.
Brown released a statement via a text message.
“The council did not follow the County’s Charter and the order corrects the council’s flawed decision-making,” she said. “This is a victory for democracy and fair representation in the county. My team and I are evaluating how best I can serve the citizens of Prince George’s County in light of all developments.”
The three council seats are currently held by Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park, whose term expires in December and voted against the plan; Rodney Streeter (D-District 7) of Hillcrest Heights who wasn’t present for the vote; and Sydney Harrison (D-District 9) of Upper Marlboro, who voted in favor of the plan.
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.
Council appointed a three-member redistricting commission last year composed 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.
The commission recommended three major changes to a redistricting plan, such as 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 recommendations Aug. 30 and submitted its proposal to council Sept. 1. Because a plan needed to be approved by Nov. 30, the judge ruled the council’s plan as invalid, and the commission’s plan would go into effect.
“The County and/or the Council shall immediately cease and desist any publication of the redistricting plan…from public view to the extent practicable and within its control…” the judge wrote.