Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Montgomery County Council Redistricting Review

The Gazette's Erin Cunningham reports on the new competing Democratic and Republican redistricting maps for the Montgomery County Council:
Montgomery Republicans have crafted a proposal to redraw the county’s electoral districts to give them a better chance of being represented on the County Council.
A proposal from Republican Henry J. Kahwaty, expands County Council District 2, which would be shaped like a horseshoe, hugging the northern borders of the county. In doing so, the district would include 39,085 Republicans — about 30 percent of registered voters. The district currently has 35,968 Republicans, or 27 percent of voters.
First, here are the current district boundaries:

Now, here is the GOP's proposed map, along with a second version with superimposed city labels:
Redistricting Proposal by Henry J. Kahwaty (Republican)
Redistricting Proposal by Henry J. Kahwaty (Republican) - superimposed labels
The Republican proposal is a pretty dramatic rearrangement of the current political boundaries. Cunningham notes that District 2, currently represented by Craig Rice, would become a massive horseshoe around the northern perimeter of the County. But more striking to me is that under the GOP proposal, a vast chunk of the downcounty would merge into a single district, bringing the downtowns of Bethesda and Silver Spring into District 1. They are currently represented by Roger Berliner and Valerie Ervin, respectively. All of this would yield a puny 3% gain for the Republicans, giving them a high watermark of only 30% of registered voters -- and only in a single council district?

I suspect, though, that most of this is irrelevant. According to the Redistricting Commission, while their nine member body must include four members from each major political party, "the Council shall appoint one additional member of the Commission." Given that Montgomery County's nine Councilmembers are all Democrats, it is no surprise that the tie-breaking member of the redistricting commission is also a Democrat (count 'em):
2011 Redistricting Commission Membership

Cherri Branson (Democrat)
Carmen Ortiz Larsen (Democrat)
Jonathan S. Shurberg (Democrat)
Don Spence (Democrat)
Jason Tai (Democrat)

J. Lee Annis Jr. (Republican)
Henry J. Kahwaty (Republican)
Jackqueline L. Phillips (Republican)
Patti Jo Witham (Republican)
For that reason, it is far more likely that the next County Council boundaries will look more like what Democratic Redistricting Commission member Don Spence is proposing.
Redistricting Proposal by Don Spence (Democrat)
Redistricting Proposal by Don Spence (Democrat) - superimposed labels
As the Gazette notes:
Democrat Don Spence’s map moves the large voting block in Leisure World from District 4 to District 3; moves Poolesville and Kensington into District 1; and brings the Olney community into District 4. Olney currently is split between District 2 and District 4.
A few other notable elements of the Democratic map are that it appears to nudge diverse East County communities up the Route 29 corridor into District 5, linking places like Burtonsville with downtown Silver Spring. Additionally, the massive population growth up the I-270 corridor means that District 2 needs to shink and lose a ton of voters. As a result, District 1 will now grow a long arm and stretch from the District of Columbia border, all the way out to Poolesville. The new plan also pulls more densely Latino Wheaton precincts into District 4.

Though this map would likely return all five district Councilmembers to office, let's be honest -- so would most maps. I think the Montgomery County GOP needs a new gameplan. Has this area become so Democratic that it is not possible to draw a successful Republican Council district?

You can see both maps, including with neighborhood polling location labels, at the Redistricting Commission's website. If you want to see how these maps would impact your own representation, you can find your polling location at the Board of Elections site and refer back to the detailed maps.

The Commission's next meeting will be September 1, 2011 at 7:00 PM; the public is invited to comment on the proposed maps. If you have comments for the Commission, please contact 240-777-7896 or send email to:

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