By Bob Allen
6:50 PM EDT, September 3, 2011
The newly-appointed Carroll County Redistricting Committee held the first of its series of public meetings on Aug. 31.
Even though Carroll County just conducted its first-ever election with five members in 2010, the committee is charged with holding deliberations on possibly reshaping the county's those five commissioner districts based on the 2010 census.
The seven-member commission is composed of members of the county's Republican Central Committee, Democratic Central Committee and a member of the county Board of Elections.
Members are Joseph Burns Jr. (R), chairman; Scott Stone (D), vice chairman; Joseph Leeman (R); Frank Rammes (D); Richard Reese (R); Gail Riley, election board representative; and Francis Walsh (D).
The panel was briefed by Daniel Friedman, counsel to the Maryland General Assembly, on the legal guidelines the panel will need to confirm with on the redistricting process.
Simply put, state law requires that district lines not discriminate against any "racial or language minority," and should have less than a 10 percent differential between the population of the largest and smallest district.
Friedman reminded the committee that it has a tentative deadline of Dec. 1 to submit its recommendations to the county's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, and that the delegation is free to accept or reject these recommendations.
The county's redistricting is going on independent of the statewide redistricting process.
While the county looks at its own district boundaries, another panel appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley is reviewing state legislative districts, and is also expected to propose new Congressional district lines.
That review is scheduled to be discussed at a special session in Annapolis this fall.
But the county's review is a separate process.
By the numbers, the county committee could keep the current commissioner districts largely intact. Based on 2010 census data, the county's five commissioner districts remain in compliance with the population guidelines.
Nevertheless, several members of the volunteer committee expressed dissatisfaction with existing districts.
A complaint voices by some members is that the current district map puts towns like Hampstead and Manchester — which have many common interests and concerns — in separate districts, while other towns with little in common are in the same district.
Committee members voted to hold future deliberations around the county at a series of public meetings to in the county's five commissioner districts. Each meeting will include a segment for public comment.
The committee set a deadline of Nov. 6 for the submission of a proposed map to the public for review. Members also voted to create a website and e-mail address. Both will be linked to the county's website, and will enable the public to follow the committee's progress and submit questions and suggestions.
During its Wednesday night debut session, held at the County Office Building, the committee also invited comment from the dozen or so members of the public in attendance.
The committee's next meeting will be held at Monday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m., at the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster.
Dates and locations for future meetings have yet to be decided, but the committee plans to hold them on the first and third Thursdays of each month.
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