Local senate district lines may include more of Washington County

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Oct. 1—CUMBERLAND, Md. — A population decline in Allegany and Garrett counties could shift the boundaries of Maryland Senate District 1 to include more of Washington County, a Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee said Wednesday during a public hearing at Allegany College of Maryland.

At the meeting, Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission Chair Karl Aro said one of the ramifications of the population changes reported in the 2020 census is that District 1, which encompasses Garrett and Allegany counties and a portion of Washington County, "is things out here are going to have to move to the east."

The state's adjusted population is 6,175,403, which is a "manageable number" when it comes to having substantially equal population legislative districts, but becomes trickier when it comes to getting congressional districts as close to zero population variance as possible. The ideal population for a congressional district in the state is going to be 771,925.

For the state's 47 senatorial districts, the ideal number of people will be 131,391. For two-member districts, that population number will be 87,594; while for single delegate districts it will be 42,797.

"Keep in mind that unlike the congressional districts, legislative districts — the definition of substantially equal population allows for greater leeway in terms of meeting that one person, one vote standard," Aro said. "Generally, we talk about plus or minus 5%. But the bottom line is plans should come in within the maximum deviation of 10%."

One reason for the likely shift east for District 1 is the population decline in both Garrett and Allegany counties, at 4.3% and 9.3% respectively, coupled with the increases in population of 5% in Washington County and 16.4% in Frederick County.

In 2010, the population for Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties was 245,249, which worked out to two districts. In 2020, the district population of 245,215, works out to 1.86 districts; which is possible within the allowed variances, but will result in the line moving nonetheless.

"When it comes to congressional, I just ask that you put groups together," Del. Mike McKay told the panel. "The example I'd like to come up with is that Frederick City should be in Frederick County. I think that like communities should be together as much as possible, knowing and understanding the undoubting task that you have to try to make everything equal and stay within the spirit of one person, one vote."

State Sen. George Edwards, who represents District 1, recommended the commission use a minus 5% variance for population of the district when drawing lines.

"These two counties here — Garrett and Allegany, and I think maybe Somerset — are the only counties that lost population. That's why I hope you'll support some of the bills we're going to put in this year to help increase the population," Edwards said.

Edwards said drawing the lines in the way he suggested would allow the people in office to represent their constituents more thoroughly, and he said something should be done about the 6th congressional district because the last two representatives have not lived in District 1.

Former Cumberland Mayor Brian Grimm spoke in favor of keeping the congressional district similar to the way it is currently drawn.

"Prior to the redistricting that occurred following the 2010 Census, the 6th Congressional District was found to be the ninth least compacted congressional district in the United States. It stretched nearly the entire map of Maryland, from the western border of Garrett County far east into Harford County, following the Pennsylvania line," Grimm said. "When redrawn most recently in 2011 to be the district it is today, it was treated as a more compacted, neighborly and cohesive district than what was created in the early 2000s across the north of Maryland."

Those who would like to submit testimony to the commission can email it to testimony_LRAC@mlis.state.md.us. Maps can be sent to the commission at maps_LRAC@mlis.state.md.us.

Brandon Glass is a staff writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @Bglass13.

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