A new congressional map proposed by the governor’s redistricting panel would seemingly not only cement Democratic domination but shore up Black voting strength in Maryland. The map — presented to the General Assembly this week — keeps Baltimore area districts intact with only slight changes. Most notably, the city would keep its three members of Congress.

It was widely feared that Baltimore City would lose a Congressional representative, putting in jeopardy one of the state’s two Black congressional representatives — Rep. Elijah E. Cummings — because Baltimore was the only jurisdiction to see a population decline over the last decade. “Overall the process is a very difficult process and there’s a lot of give and take,” said Cummings. “Overall, I think it makes a fair distribution of African American and Hispanic voters and safeguards the two minority districts, the fourth and the seventh.”

The map makes minor shifts in other districts, many of which appear to benefit minorities. As requested by Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus, the plan reduces Howard County’s proportion in the 7th Congressional District to make Baltimore City more central.

Under the plan, the 4th and 7th districts, the state’s largest majority minority environs, have a 53.7 percent Black voting population. The panel says they took care not to dilute the growing Black population in southern Maryland, encompassed in the 5th district. It will have a 35 percent Black population.

The biggest move would occur in the 6th Congressional District in Western Maryland led by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, one of the state’s two Republicans. It would shift GOP voters out of the 6th and into the 1st, which is represented by the state’s only other Republican, Andrew Harris. This sets the stage for Democrats to gain control of that district, leaving Harris with the only GOP-dominated jurisdiction.

The revamped 6th district would incorporate half of Montgomery County, helping it grow from a jurisdiction where Black voters make up just 6.4 percent of the population to one where they make up 11.76 percent.

The proposal “also creates the probability that the fifth district will eventually elect an African American,” Cummings said. “So that would mean out of the eight seats, African Americans would control three, which would be phenomenal for a small state.”

Confident the plan reflects the population shifts, demographics and strengths of the state, Cummings said, though he realizes there might be some other adjustments, “I’m working hard with the governor and the legislature to get it passed.”

State officials say overall modifications are small with more than 70 percent of Marylanders remaining in their current districts. The map — as submitted by the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee — is posted on the Department of Planning’s website. The public is encouraged to submit comments on the plan by Oct. 11.

Gov. Martin O’Malley will call a special session of the General Assembly to present his own plan on Oct. 17. In a recent statement, O’Malley said his map will be “substantially similar” to the one submitted by the committee.


Shernay Williams

Special to the AFRO