State redistricting could lead to additional Howard delegate

Howard would have another delegate representing the county in the General Assembly if a state legislative redistricting plan created by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee is adopted.

The committee released its plan — which redraws the state legislative district boundaries to reflect changes in population over the past decade — Dec. 16.

The additional delegate seat for Howard would come from the western part of the county in District 9B, which is currently located entirely in Carroll County. The committee's plan reduces District 9B's footprint in Carroll County and brings much of it into western Howard County, where it extends through part of western Elliott City and covers parts of Clarksville, Highland and Fulton along the Montgomery County border.

A public hearing on the committee's plan will be held Thursday, Dec. 22 in Annapolis. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, will then decide whether to make changes to the plan before submitting it to the General Assembly to discuss and vote on in the 2012 legislative session, which starts Jan. 11. The General Assembly has 45 days to pass a plan or the one O'Malley submits will become law.

According to 2010 census data, which is used to redraw the boundaries, the ideal state legislative district would have a population of about 123,000. The three state legislative districts that represent Howard — Districts 9, 12 and 13 — are higher than the ideal.

Given that Howard County's population grew 16 percent during the past 10 years, it's not surprising the plan gives the county additional representation.

"Because of population growth, Howard County deserves another delegate," District 9A Del. Warren Miller, a Woodbine Republican, said.

Each state legislative district has one senator and three delegates (some districts are split into subdistricts that have one or two delegates). Because District 12 and District 13 each have three Howard delegates already, any additional delegate had to come from District 9.

Howard currently has two delegates who represent District 9A: Miller and West Friendship Republican Del. Gail Bates. Under the committee's plan, District 9A is moved out to Ellicott City, meaning Bates and Miller would have to run in the new District 9B.

Because District 9 lost a populous part of Carroll County, it was able to absorb some of the growth from District 13, which currently has about 8,500 more people than it needs to be at the ideal population.

Other than losing population to District 9 along the Montgomery County border, District 13 only faces minor changes.

District 12 looks largely the same — stretching from west Columbia across to the southwestern part of Baltimore County — with minor shifts along its borders that will mean the majority of the district's population is in Howard County instead of Baltimore County, as it is now.

But the committee's plan does eliminate the subdistricts, making the campaigning area much larger for Columbia Democrat Del. Liz Bobo, who currently represents District 12B, and Halethorpe Democrats Dels. James Malone and Steven DeBoy, who currently represent District 12A.

District 13 Del. Guy Guzzone, a Columbia Democrat who serves as co-chairman of the Howard County Delegation, said the changes to the districts within Howard County were not that significant.

"In the big scheme of things, I don't think any of it's really what I would call major," he said.

Interviewed before the maps were released, District 13 Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Columbia Democrat, said she also didn't see any major changes in Howard County's future.

"Probably there will be a storm about redistricting, but it won't be a Howard County storm," she said.

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