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With new census data released, Carroll committee will start to review county commissioner district borders

New census data released on Thursday will guide a seven-member committee in reviewing the five existing commissioner districts in Carroll County and ensure those districts continue to have an equal population.

In 2003, the General Assembly passed House Bill 290, which required the holding of a referendum during the November 2004 general election to allow voters to cast ballots for or against a proposed new form of government: the expansion of the Board of County Commissioners from three elected at-large to five members elected by district.

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In November of 2004, the referendum was put to a vote and passed. Carroll County Code requires that the commissioners appoint a new redistricting committee following the release of the decennial census to examine the commissioner districts based on the revised census data.

County Attorney Tim Burke said the members of the board are appointed by county commissioners, who ask for recommendations from the county’s central committees and the board of elections. Three members are chosen from the Republican Central Committee, three from the Democratic Committee and one from the board of elections who may be a Republican or a Democrat.

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The goals of the commission will be to draw districts that comply with federal law, are geographically compact, avoid carving out municipalities and are as equal in population as possible, Burke said.

The committee will prepare recommended revisions to the districts as necessary, all which must be submitted to the Carroll County Legislative Delegation by Dec. 1.

Burke said the committee “may decide to keep the map or they may decide to change it, but the delegation makes the final decision.”

Karen Leatherwood, one committee member, is an elected member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee and has volunteered for a number of campaigns over the years. She previously served on some committees such as the Environmental Advisory Council and the Solid Waste Council.

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Leatherwood said the five commissioner districts are balanced to each contain 20% of the county population.

“The preliminary county data that we received shows that Carroll County grew by 5,757 people,” she said, adding at their first meeting, they will look at how that growth is distributed throughout the county.

Leatherwood said “the composition of the committee has folks from various corners of the county” but she hopes they can hold public sessions so residents from different parts of the county can provide input.

“Our county is quite diverse,” said Leatherwood, an Eldersburg resident. “I happen to live in a more densely populated district with little agriculture, but lots of shopping. … This is very different from the feel of some of the other districts.”

Leatherwood noted she knows there are prospective candidates for county commissioners that are interested in starting to campaign but don’t yet know what their district will be.

Another member of the committee, Charles Harrison, is part of the county’s Democratic Central Committee, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Association, a member of the county ethics commission and past president of the Carroll chapter of the NAACP.

He said redistricting will impact leadership as it “locks people into positions.”

Although he hasn’t had the opportunity to review the new data just yet, Harrison said he’ll have a better idea of whether changes will need to be made or not once the committee starts meeting.

The first scheduled meeting is Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. in Room 003 of the county office building.

Other members of the committee include Joseph Leeman, James L. McCarron, Jr., Harvey Rabinowitz, Christopher Tomlinson and Raquel Pappas Welsh.

The current commissioner districts are as follows: District 1, the county’s northernmost and geographically largest district, stretches from the Taneytown area east to Manchester; District 2 runs along the county’s east side, from Hampstead south through Finksburg and Gamber; District 3 includes the City of Westminster and surrounding areas; District 4 encompasses most of southwestern Carroll County, including the towns of Mount Airy, New Windsor and Union Bridge; and District 5 includes the Eldersburg community and the Town of Sykesville.

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