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Annapolis

Annapolis redistricting task force seeks voter input in first public hearing

The Annapolis group responsible for performing the once-every-decade process of redrawing the city’s ward boundaries is seeking public input.

The Ward Boundaries and Redistricting Task Force, chaired by former Ward 5 alderman Jared Littmann, will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Pip Moyer Recreation Center for the first of two public meetings to solicit feedback about the redistricting process.

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Every 10 years, following the completion of the U.S. census, a group of city residents is appointed to use the population figures to examine the city’s ward boundaries and redraw them if necessary to ensure equal representation across all eight wards as required by the City Charter. The nine-member task force was formed by resolution in April, first met in October when they received the census data and convened again last month by Zoom conference.

Before developing draft maps, the task force wants to first hear from residents about concerns, which will be used as a foundation to create the maps. A second public meeting scheduled for Feb. 22 will then allow direct feedback on the draft maps. The time and location of the second meeting has yet to be set.

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“By then, I imagine people will be upset that we did some things, you know, people generally don’t come out to say you did a great job,” Littmann said. “They come out to let you what they don’t like and that’s fine. That’s part of the process, but, hopefully, if we can already know what they want and don’t want, we can at least have that consideration when we’re creating the proposed maps in January.”

According to the 2020 U.S. census, the population of Annapolis increased by more than 2,500 people, from 38,394 to 40,951 in the past 10 years, a 6.7% increase.

While exactly equal distribution of people across Annapolis’ eight wards isn’t required by law, each ward must stay within 5% of the population average — 5,119.

At present, two wards fall outside those parameters, wards 2 and 7. Ward 7 currently has 4,692, or 171 people below the allowable deviation. Ward 2 currently has 5,441, or 66 people higher than the allowable deviation, census data shows. The other six wards are within the deviation. It will be up to the task force to bring the two wards into alignment; doing so, however, could mean some or all of the ward boundaries will change.

The city’s wards last were redrawn in 2011 by a commission led by Ron Jarashow, an Annapolis attorney and retired Anne Arundel County Circuit judge. After an extensive discussion about breaking up the city’s public housing communities across all wards, the panel opted to keep the three majority-Black wards — 3, 4 and 6 — intact. A proposal to draw a majority-Hispanic ward was also ruled out.

The task force likely will consider similar proposals this year.

Staying within the 5% deviation is the minimum the task force should strive for, Littmann said. Other factors that could be considered include historical boundaries and the racial and ethnic makeup of each ward.

“I would tackle this the way I would any problem, which is to identify what the issue is you’re trying to address,” Littman said, “and in this case it is to comply with the laws and guidance on how wards are supposed to be balanced.

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“The primary factor is leveling populations. If you’re under 5% deviation, that’s sufficient to be legal, and so then it’s a choice that the task force — and ultimately the City Council — will have to make of what’s more important, to be closer to equal population in each ward or to not change the historical boundaries?”

The task force’s work begins just as state legislators completed their own congressional redistricting deliberations, which included a new district for some Anne Arundel County residents.

In redrawing the wards, the task force will be guided by some legal foundations, including a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 called the Gingles factors test, which prohibits redistricting from undermining minority voters and ensures minority citizens have the same opportunity as other members to participate in the political process, among other factors.

A second guiding legal principle comes from a legislative districting case heard by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 2012, which called for “compactness, contiguity [and] protecting communities of interest” when redrawing boundaries.

Testimony can be submitted by email to boards@annapolis.gov or on the comments form for the task force, or by regular mail to City Hall, Attention Hilary Raftovich, 160 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis, MD 21401. The task force has also encouraged Spanish-speaking residents to submit testimony that will be translated by the city’s Hispanic liaison Laura Gutierrez.

Here are some other key task force dates (subject to change):

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  • Jan. 18: Task force holds work session to generate initial maps.
  • Feb. 1: Task force meets to discuss plans and maps with at least one map to present to the public.
  • Feb. 15: Second public hearing at a time and place to be determined.
  • March 10: Deadline for submitting public testimony.
  • March 15: Task force votes on proposed plan, legislation starts to be drafted City Law Office.
  • April: Task force votes on final report and presents map proposal at City Council work session.
  • April to June: Redistricting legislation introduced on first read. Public hearing on redistricting legislation. Final vote on redistricting legislation.

2021 Ward Boundaries and Redistricting Task Force membership:

  • Emma Smith, Ward 1
  • Brandon Wright, Ward 2
  • Lisa Wilson, Ward 3
  • Salon Webb, Ward 4
  • Jared Littman, Ward 5, chair
  • Greg Brennan, Ward 6
  • Mary Anne Arnett, Ward 7, vice chair
  • Michael Mathews, Ward 8
  • Harold Lloyd Sr., at-large

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