Maryland established local redistricting commissions nearly 10 years ago, after citizens complained they were not given sufficient opportunity for input into the process. The five-member Baltimore County Redistricting Commission, which includes one African American, met for the first time in late March. It will hold three public meetings to discuss the redrawing of county council district lines in Baltimore County; the first two have already taken place. 

The Redistricting Commission’s third public meeting will take place 7 p.m. April 28 in the auditorium at Patapsco High School, 8100 Wise Ave., Dundalk, Md.  Persons wishing to speak or ask questions should plan to arrive between 6 – 6:45 p.m. for sign-up. 

Groups and individuals are welcome to make suggestions or offer proposals. County residents are free to attend and participate in any public forum, regardless of their home district.

The Redistricting Commission, which is advisory in nature, must prepare a formal recommendation for the Baltimore County Council by July 1.  The Council will then assess the 2010 population data, deliberate on the Redistricting Committee’s proposed plan, and prepare its own written plan by Sept. 1.  The Baltimore County Council will hold only one public hearing, expected to occur sometime in August 2011.

Unlike the census of 2000, which revealed a significant increase in the Baltimore County population, the 2010 census showed a more modest increase of about 50,740 people.  The law mandates that county council districts be substantially equivalent in size. This means the current County population of just over 805,000, which had been apportioned into seven districts of nearly 108,000 in 2001, must be apportioned into districts of approximately 115, 000 in 2011. So a shift in some precinct lines is likely.

The greatest portion of the County’s population growth occurred in the northwest communities of Randallstown and Owings Mills.  The population of Owings Mills, for the first time, is more than half African American at 61 percent, and that growth trend is expected to continue in both northwest areas through the next decade.  Presently African Americans comprise 38.3 percent of the County’s population. While the White population declined by 41,000, County African Americans increased by more than 58,000, Hispanics increased by 20,000, and Asians increased by 16,000.

”The significance of the 2011 redistricting effort is that it lays the groundwork for continued opportunity for African Americans in 2021 when the next redistricting takes place. By 2021, if trends continue relative to the growth of minorities, the possibility of a second predominantly minority Baltimore County Council district may exist,” said long-time Baltimore County political observer and activist Dunbar Brooks. 

Redistricting of congressional districts will take place this summer.  State legislative restricting, however, will not occur until 2012.