Message from County Council Member Jolene Ivey
You may have heard about the current controversy concerning the redrawing of the boundary lines for the County Council’s nine districts. I’d like to take this opportunity to go into some detail to explain what is happening, and explain why the redistricting process is important.
The County Council approves land use matters and county laws. Because fair redistricting is fundamental to our democracy, the map the County Council approves matters.
The County Charter requires that every ten years, after the U.S. Census is completed, the County Council must appoint a Redistricting Commission to propose and submit to the Council proposed new district boundaries. The new district lines the Council eventually approves will go into effect for the 2022 elections, and stay in effect for ten years, until after the next U.S. Census.
The required redistricting procedure is determined by Section 305 of the County Code.
The Redistricting Commission
The three members of the Redistricting Commission were appointed by the County Council on January 28, 2021. Over the course of the year the Commission held eleven virtual public meetings open to the public, and two virtual public hearings.
The three Commission members are Pastor James Robinson of the Tree of Life Christian Ministries, Chair; Dr. Charlene Mickens Dukes, President Emeritus of Prince George’s Community College; and Mr. David C. Harrington, the President of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce. The consultant to the Redistricting Commission was Dr. Nathanial Persily of Stanford Law School.
Due to delays caused by the pandemic and the Trump administration’s Commerce Department, the U.S. Census Bureau did not deliver the population data to be used in redistricting by the required date of March 31, 2021. The data came instead, finally, in August 2021.
Because delivery of the official census data was delayed, the Commission decided that it would be in the best interest of the County to move forward with the redistricting process utilizing projected census population data. On August 16, 2021, the Commission finally received the official data.
The Commission was able to make the needed adjustments to the estimated data they had initially used, and on August 30th the Commission voted unanimously (3-0) to adopt their Plan and Report and submitted it to the Council on September 1st.
Information on the Redistricting Commission can be found here: Redistricting Commission Work, Public Documents
The Commission’s Process and the Requirements of the Law
By law, to meet one-person one-vote criteria, there cannot be a variation of more than 5% among the districts. In the proposed map presented by the Commission to the Council, the deviation is about 4%. The Commission’s goal was to be under 4.5%.
Like all jurisdictions, Prince George’s County is subject to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Although important parts of the Voting Rights Act were gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County decision, Section 2 still applies.
Section 2 is intended to prevent race-based vote dilution. That is not a problem in Prince George’s with the current or proposed districts.
The Redistricting Commission stated that they created a plan that did not dilute the vote of any racial group, saying it wanted to ensure that it did not deprive any racial or ethnic group of an equal opportunity to elect candidates of its choice.
(Such dilution can occur either through over concentration or excessive dispersion of a racial group; that is not an issue here).
Since there was no legal challenge to the 2011 redistricting plan passed by the County Council last time, the Commission decided to use the existing districts as a starting point to prepare the new plan. In doing so, the Commission was guided by five principles: 1) a "least-change" plan, 2) boundaries that are contiguous, 3) avoid splitting precincts, 4) districts that have no greater than 4.5% population deviation, and 5) consideration of assets or community interests that connect each district.
As it turns out, there isn’t much change between the current districts and the new map proposed by the Commission. The following are the relatively minor changes proposed by the Commission’s proposal:
To rectify uneven population numbers in Districts 1 and 2, two precincts (4,075 people) in Adelphi were moved from District 1 to District 2.
To bring District 3 under 4.5% deviation from other districts, one precinct (2,205 people) in Glenn Dale was moved from District 3 to District 4. (This unites almost all of Glenn Dale into District 4).
To rectify uneven numbers in Districts 6 and 7, two precincts (6,040 people) in District Heights were moved from District 6 to District 7. (This change not only fixes the population shortfall in District 7, but it also fully unites the two precincts that form District Heights).
For more information about the timeline as outlined in Section 305 of the County Charter go to: https://pgccouncil.us/840/2021-PRINCE-GEORGES-COUNTY-COUNCIL-REDIS
The Surprise Map Introduced October 14th
The Council’s options are to accept and adopt the C