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State legislative districts to be redrawn

Maryland is planning to redraw its Congressional and legislative districts in time for the 2012 primary elections, and the process could affect how Harford County votes.

One of the many public hearings happening soon will take place at Harford Community College Saturday, giving residents the chance to speak their minds on where district lines should be drawn.

The hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Amoss Center, 200 Thomas Run Road in Bel Air. Speakers must register and the hearing will continue until the last speaker is heard.

Del. Donna Stifler, who represents northern Harford, said the entire delegation planned to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday to discuss the redistricting.

She said Thursday it was premature to discuss anything ahead of that meeting, but also said the delegates know some of their districts will be redrawn, based on the Census numbers.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican who represents parts of Harford and Cecil counties, said she expects to be there along with Del. Susan McComas and Sen. Barry Glassman. She said she also heard Sen. J.B. Jennings might be coming.

Maryland last redrew its districts in 2002. The new redistricting process began with the Census count in 2010.

Jacobs, for one, said the redistricting has the potential to change Harford and Cecil boundaries, as she said it did during the previous redistricting.

Her district, 34, now includes the northern end of Cecil and the eastern part of Harford.

"I know the Eastern Shore has grown in numbers, and they kind of have to start from outward in," Jacobs said, explaining a number of scenarios are being floated. "They can remove me from Cecil County and give me back some of my old territory, which is Bel Air…It's hard to tell."

She added she could lose Joppatowne or Edgewood.

"This is one reason why winning the governor's race is so important, because the governor gets to have a commission with the people he wants on it to do the redistricting," she said. "Ideally, Harford County can easily have two senators."

Jacobs also said Montgomery County has grown in population but perhaps not enough to get another senator, while "Baltimore City has definitely lost territory. The biggest loser in all of this is Baltimore City, and they should lose a senator."

Most of all, Jacobs said, she is "expecting games" from a Democratic administration.

"This is the time when there's a lot of gamesmanship going on," she said. "They won't be satisfied until they get rid of as many Republicans as they can, and that's what they do every time."

While some other senators and the local delegates are teaming up, Jacobs said she and Glassman, or other senators, have not done anything similar.

"Some senators and delegates have gotten together and come up with their own plan. We had talked about doing that, and I don't know if Del. McComas will be presenting a plan on it," she said.

Del. Wayne Norman said one possibility from the state is the creation of one large, three-member District 35.

He said McComas lost 0.5 percent population in her area, while he and Stifler gained about the same amount in theirs.

"If they just made it one, three-member district, the head count would be perfect," he said.

Ultimately, however, what happens is anyone's guess.

"Everybody wants to represent who they already represent… We don't really have too much say in it," Norman said.

If delegates and senators aren't happy, "it ends up in court. That's what happened 10 years ago and it's what happened 20 years ago, where the court sets those boundaries," he said. "We certainly have a say if it gets gerrymandered."

Del. Kathy Szeliga said she and Sen. J.B. Jennings, who represent District 7, are presenting their own plan at the hearing, which would keep boundaries roughly similar to where they are.

McComas wrote in an e-mail that she expects Gov. Martin O'Malley to be heavily lobbied by his supporters.

"Redistricting is a complicated process and every time lines are moved in one district it affects the configuration of the surrounding districts. Many states have non-partisan commissions to draw the lines.  Certainly that would be the better process," she wrote. "Maryland is a one party state and that party will not willing relinquish control of a process that is self-perpetuating and keeps that party in absolute control."

For more information or to sign up for the hearing, go to http://www.mdp.state.md.us/redistricting/2010/publicHearings.shtml . After noon on Friday, speakers must register in person at the hearing.

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