Redistricting Is Crunch Time For County Republicans

Increased Numbers May Not Help Much At State Level

March 20, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

FINKBURG — FINKSBURG -- It's not a bad time to feel heady if you're a Republican in Carroll.

Republicans make up the majority of registered voters in the county -- 26,015 to 25,084 -- coupled with increased GOP registration statewide. And the number of Republicans in the General Assembly is on the rise.

But it's also not time to reflect on gains, a state Republican leader warned a county GOP group in Finksburg last night, especially with the redrawing of political districts looming.

"There's potential there for Carroll to be caught up in the crunch," said Mark R. Frazer, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party's redistricting committee.

"Carroll County (Republicans) need to watch for what's happening," he said.

Frazer, a Calvert County commissioner from 1986 to 1990, spoke at a monthly meeting of the Tri-District Republican Club at the Mount Zion United Methodist Church on Route 140. Eighteen of the club's 200 county members from the Hampstead, Manchester and Woolerys areas attended.

It's reapportionment time, when boundaries of political districts are redrawn to reflect population shifts. Boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts are reworked every 10 years, based on updated population data collected in the census.

Reapportionment is meant to ensure that political representation of a district reflects the relative size of its population compared with other districts.

But the actual redrawing of boundaries rarelyis so straightforward, mainly because redistricting is engineered by the party that controls the governorship and General Assembly. Typically, the ruling party does what it can, under legal limits, to strengthen its strongholds and erode its opponents' opportunities.

"We've got to live with the consequences for a decade," Frazer said.

The redesigned state Senate districts will encompass about 101,000 residents, while the delegate districts will include about 30,000. Congressional districts will consist of about 600,000 people.

The process will start when Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer submits aplan for new congressional districts that will be considered by the Democratic General Assembly at a special session, probably next fall.

The governor also will draw a plan for new state districts that will be presented to the legislature during the 1992 session. The General Assembly must approve that plan within 45 days or pass one of itsown, which would not require the governor's blessing.

The biggestredistricting battleground will center on Montgomery and Prince George's counties, where population burgeoned during the 1980s. But that doesn't mean Carroll realignment won't proceed uneventfully, Frazer said.

Despite partisan skirmishing that traditionally accompanies reapportionment, the results could be good for Carroll, said state Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll.

Some 28,000 people settled in Carroll during the '80s, a 28 percent increase, bringing the 1990 population to about 123,000. That could translate into an additional state Senate seat and more direct Carroll representation in the House of Delegates, he said.

Two of the county's four state delegates now represent split districts. The new boundaries could result in threedelegates representing Carroll residents only.

"That's the good part for Carroll," said Matthews, chairman of the Carroll delegation.

Both of the county's senators represent multiple districts. That could change, along with the county gaining a Senate seat, he said.

"I foresee that we'll have a senator living in and representing nothing but Carroll, and a senator probably not living in Carroll and representing a piece of Carroll and a lot of Frederick, Howard or Baltimore (counties)," Matthews said.

Any reconfiguring of the 6th U.S. Congressional District -- of which Carroll is part -- doesn't figure to affect the county that much, said a spokesman for Representative Beverly B. Byron.

"It won't remain the same, that's for certain," spokesman Beau Wright said of the district, which includes all of Allegany, Carroll, Garrett, Frederick and Washington counties and parts of Howard and Montgomery.

"(Byron) needs to add about 72,000 people, the biggest amount of any district in Maryland," he said. "But it'salmost certain that nothing will come out of Carroll. The point of question will come in Howard and Montgomery."

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