2021 | Government

Redistricting commission will soon work on county maps

Final census data expected by Monday

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With campaigning for next year’s elections underway, the county’s redistricting commission will soon start drawing maps proposing new County Council districts.

The commission met last week and expects to have final data compiled from the U.S. census by Monday, allowing members to begin drawing maps.

Nicholas Holdzkom, a research planner for the county, said he and colleagues are working to collect and import the data, so the process can begin next week.

“By the meeting of [Sept. 23], our big hope is that people will be able to show up with maps,” Holdzkom said. 

Pamela Dunn, a senior legislative analyst for the County Council who is assisting the commission, said a map-drawing tool should be available to the public by Sept. 16. 

The commission is tasked with drawing a map dividing the county into seven County Council districts. Last November, voters approved a charter amendment that increased the number of council members from nine to 11. 

Seven members will represent districts, up from the current five. Four at-large members will continue to represent the entire county.

For the proposed districts, the commissioners will focus on:

  • Compactness
  • Contiguity 
  • Equal population
  • Minority representation
  • Preservation of political subdivisions
  • Preservation of community landmarks/areas

Their draft maps will be finalized and available for public comment in October.

The commission will submit its report with one or more recommended maps, and present them to the County Council by Nov. 15. The council decides what the final map will be.

Commission members agreed that it would be beneficial to split into smaller groups of about four or five people, preferably of differing party affiliations, to start drawing maps. They then would reconvene to compare maps and eventually agree on a final map to present to the County Council, but also provide back-up maps, in case a full consensus can’t be reached.

Commissioner Valerie Ervin, a former County Council member, told her colleagues last week that the commission’s work is important, but reminded them they have limited time before the final Nov. 15 deadline.

“The calendar is not our friend right now,” Ervin said.

Ervin predicted that the County Council public hearing on the final proposal will be well attended, and that the community will be heard then.

It will be important to give council members one preferred map, but also provide alternatives, so the council has a choice, commissioners said.

Commissioner Sam Statland said he hopes the County Council follows the commission’s recommendations in its final report. He added that it would be smart to do so, because the commission consists of Democrats, Republicans, a Libertarian and registered independents. 

“I think that gives us a lot of firm ground to stand on, in what our selections are,” Statland said. 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com