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Delegation to hear committee's split decision on commissioner districts

The culmination of the Carroll County Redistricting Committee's three months of deliberation and public input will be presented to the county's delegation to Annapolis on Dec. 13 as part of legislators' annual review of pending issues for the upcoming General Assembly session.

But the committee's recommendation — a 4-3 vote by members calling for a change in district lines for the five county commissioner districts — may already be in question, especially since the chairman of the redistricting panel was among those voting against it.

The delegation has the final word on choosing the county's five-commissioner-district map, which is being updated this year based on new population data from the 2010 census.

The current commissioner district lines (shown above left) were created in 2005 and formally approved by the General Assembly in 2008. They have been used once thus far, in the 2010 elections.

In November, the seven-member redistricting panel voted 4-3 to recommend replacing that map with Map 3, an option map that allows for minor corrections in population shifts.

Submitted by Committee member C. Scott Stone, of Hampstead, Map 3 is similar to a configuration that was rejected by the delegation when the commissioner districts were first created.

Map 3 differs from the existing commissioner district map in that it puts Taneytown, New Windsor and Union Bridge in a single district, District 1; and Manchester, Hampstead and the portion of Finksburg north of Route 140 in another district, District 2.

The current commissioner map has Manchester and Taneytown paired in a district that stretches across the northern part of the county; and has Finksburg paired with Hampstead in another district.

Under the Map 3 option, the Finksburg portion south of Route 140 would become part of District 5, which would also include most of Sykesville, Eldersburg and Gamber.

District 4 would include Woodbine, part of Sykesville and Mount Airy. District 3 would be composed almost entirely of Westminster, basically the same as it is under the current district map.

But committee Chairman Joseph Burns Jr., who cast one of the three votes against Map 3, has voiced his support for essentially keeping the district lines the same as they are now. He's backing Map 1, an option that makes only minor tweaks to the current lines, allowing for population changes.

On the Redistricting Committee's website, Burns posted an explanation of his dissenting vote against Map 3. In it, he noted that Map 1 was closest to the existing map — and therefore already reflects what the delegation approved when the district lines were initially drawn.

"We need not, nor should we, continue to refight these battles, which are not properly reviewable at this level anyway by this committee," Burns wrote.

"We should always strive to focus on our primary mission and goals, which we are tasked to accomplish, not waste either our time or resources on arbitrary items, simply to fulfill personal agendas," he said. "We fail in our public duty in doing so."

"We have already held elections using these (existing) districts, which have subsequently established representative districts for our citizens," he wrote. "Having held elections using those districts, we have created … district relationships with our elected officials that should not be disturbed arbitrarily."

Burns also argued against Map 3 on the basis that, "Changing those election district boundaries at this juncture would cause representatives who were not voted for by the people, to now represent those people by a forced relationship arrangement. Any proposed changes would also cause elected officials to be placed into a forced relationship position representing those who did not elect them as their representatives."

In fact, the Map 3 boundaries, if approved, would not go into effect until the next county commissioner elections, in 2014.

Burns will formally present the committee's finding during the Carroll delegation's public hearing Dec. 13, at 7 p.m., at the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Room 003, Westminster.

In addition to the redistricting plan, the delegation will consider other legislation being proposed for the 2012 General Assembly session, which opens in January.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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