Changes in the Prince George’s County population could realign thousands of residents into new legislative districts.
The exact number affected in the nine county council districts remains undetermined, but Prince George’s Redistricting Commission reviewed proposed maps during a Monday, July 19 public hearing, the first step in the process.
The commission’s goal will be to equally distribute the population and also avoid splitting precincts in a particular neighborhood.
More specific population figures to realign the districts won’t be available until 2020 U.S. Census data becomes available next month.
“Unfortunately, at this stage because of the [delay in releasing] census data, we’re really speculating as to what needs to be done in order to comply with the law,” said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford University in California serving as a consultant for the commission. “One of the helpful things the public has already started to provide is advice on the existing districts. That is a good starting point for the discussion.”
Persily worked with the county 10 years ago to assess redrawing council districts, a process done every decade to reflect changes in the county’s population.
The three-member commission includes board chair the Rev. James J. Robinson, pastor of Tree of Life Christian Ministries in Clinton; David Harrington, president of the county’s Chamber of Commerce; and Charlene Dukes, former president of Prince George’s Community College who will become interim president at Montgomery College on Aug. 7.
Prior to Monday’s session, the commission released maps and population tables for residents to review.
One table shows five of the nine County Council districts exceed more than 100,000 people.
Residents in the highest populated district reside in District 6 with 106,085. The municipalities and communities in that area include Largo and portions of Upper Marlboro and Bowie.
District 7 accounts for the lowest population with 93,274 people who reside near the D.C. border in neighborhoods that include Hillcrest Heights, Seat Pleasant and Suitland.
According to the commission, the population in District 7 is underpopulated by 8 percent , or 8,305 people. One proposal to decrease the figure below 4.5 percent would be to move two precincts that occupy most of District Heights from District 6 to District 7.
Residents who testified want the commission to show that the districts are fair and equitable.
Bradley Heard submitted written testimony and three proposed maps for the commission to consider that include keeping the entire city of Hyattsville and Metro’s Blue Line transit rail in one district.
He also suggested shifting the precincts in the Walker Mill area in Capitol Heights.
School board member Belinda Queen resides in that area.
“We must remember that we have to, even in redistricting, focus on equity and fairness,” she said. “So let’s make sure we have drawn equitable and inclusive maps that ensure that voters, especially voters of color, have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
Heard said the Sept. 1 deadline to submit a final plan to the county council should be extended to allow residents time to comment when the updated census numbers are released next month. He asked if the request can be made in court.
Rosalyn Pugh, a counsel for the commission, said her “preliminary response” would be voters must approve any deadline extensions based on the county charter.
However, she will research to determine if there’s any precedent to make such a request, especially in emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
A possible answer could be provided at the next public hearing scheduled at 5 p.m. Monday, July 26.
To listen and view the next commission session, go to https://pgcouncil.us/LIVE.
Twitter: @jabariwill

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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