Redistricting Blasted By County Delegation

Commission's Plan Sparks Bipartisan Outrage

December 04, 1991|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

Howard County would be "raped" if a remapping of state legislative districts proposed Monday is adopted, a county Democratic state senator said yesterday.

Sen. Thomas Yeager, D-13, joined the county's Republican senator and delegates to blast the governor's redistricting commission for carving the county into five Senate districts. Under the proposal, two of them would be controlled by Baltimore County, andone by Carroll County. The county is now in districts 4, 13 and 14.

The plan would increase the number of delegates representing Howard County from nine to 14. But it is likely only six of them would becounty residents, as compared with the current seven.

Freshmen Republican delegates Marty Madden and John Morgan, who unseated Democrats last year in District 13, would be separated from most of their constituencies.

The plan puts Madden's Clarksville home into District 14B,

along with fellow Republican delegates Robert H. Kittleman and Robert L. Flanagan. It also extracts Morgan's North Laurel apartment complex to a subdistrict for one delegate that is mostly in Prince George's County.

One aspect that especially disturbed county legislators was that county government offices in Ellicott City were putinto District 11, controlled by Baltimore County.

"If someone wanted to rape Howard County and foul up Howard County, they couldn't have done it any better," Yeager said of the plan.

Yeager said his own chances for re-election would not be hurt by the commission's proposal.

The proposal preserves one of the two senate districts Baltimore City should have lost because of a drop in population shown in the 1990 census, the legislators said.

"Howard County, which has the largest population growth, gets its voice diluted the most, compared to Baltimore City, which had the largest population decrease," Flanagan said.

But commission member and former Baltimore city attorney Benjamin L. Brown defended the proposal, saying it was crafted to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and "considering what was inthe best interests of the state and the people.

"They got two full senatorial districts, right? And I understand they have the opportunity to elect several more delegates," Brown said.

The state's 47 legislative districts, each with a senator and three delegates, are divided so that each has close to 100,000 people. With about 187,000 people, Howard County qualifies for an entire district to itself -- a luxury it has never enjoyed -- and one shared with another county.

Plans proposed by Republicans and Democrats adhered to that formula,but the commission's map resembles none of them.

The idea of putting Ellicott City in a Baltimore County-controlled district is "outrageous," said Delegate Virginia Thomas, D-13A, who added that she planned to ask the governor to redraw the lines.

But Madden criticizedThomas, whose plan he said came closest to the commission's proposalsince it put Elkridge into a district controlled by Baltimore County.

Madden said he had "no great hopes" that the plan would change, but Flanagan said it could be overturned in court.

Kittleman said it appears the plan does not adhere to the federal Voting Rights Actsin that it shortchanges blacks by one district in both Baltimore City and Prince George's County.

Members said they will try to tell countians what the plan means and urge them to testify Tuesday at a hearing before the commission in Annapolis.

County Executive CharlesI. Ecker said he will testify against the proposal at the hearing.

After the hearing, the commission will make a recommendation to thegovernor, who must submit a plan to the General Assembly next month.The House and Senate have 45 days to agree on a plan of their own, or the governor's plan becomes law.

LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING PLAN

Here is how county representation would change:

Columbia: Remains split by U.S. 29 into two Senate districts, 13 and 14, but could control an additional delegate seat in 13.

Elkridge: Is included in District 12, with Baltimore County voters controlling its three delegate seats and one Senate seat.

Ellicott City: Splits into three districts, with Main Street and areas north of U.S. 40 included in District 11, controlled by northwestern Baltimore County voters. Southern neighborhoods near Elkridge would be in District 12. St. John's and Dunloggin neighborhoods would stay in District 14.

North Laurel: Stays in District 13, but in a single-delegate district controlled by Prince George's County voters in Laurel.

Savage: Stays in District 13, but in a two-delegate subdistrict, 13B, probably controlled by Columbia voters. Current delegates no longer in district.

Central county: Largely still in District 14B, shared with Montgomery County. Same legislators.

Western county: Shifts from District 4, which it currently shares with Frederick and Carroll counties, to District 5, controlled by Carroll County. All legislators would change.

Staff writer James M. Coram contributed to this story.

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