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by Judith Hruz
The proposed redistricting of Montgomery County’s council districts is now in the hands of the County Council, and the greater Olney area is relatively intact under the suggested boundaries.
The Redistricting Commission on Nov. 3 voted to submit its map and proposed report to the council following eight months of work on the changes.
The County Council must hold a public hearing within 30 days of receiving the report.
The redistricting plan is customarily introduced as a bill at the request of the Redistricting Commission. The council must act on the bill within 90 days of receiving the plan, according to the report. The council may amend the plan or approve the plan as submitted.
Given that Feb. 22 is the filing deadline for candidates who want to seek council seats in the 2022 election, the Redistricting Commission, and now the council, are operating under a sense of urgency. Candidates seeking district seats must know in which district they reside.
The Commission on Redistricting was charged with redrawing County Council district lines to accommodate new U.S. Census data and the expansion from five council districts to seven districts.
During the 2018 election, voters chose to expand the County Council from nine members – five elected to a specific district and four elected at large – to 11 members – seven elected to a specific district and four elected at large.
That charter amendment was put forth by the County Council itself and placed on the ballot.
The proposed map puts Olney in “District 7,” which also includes Sandy Spring and Ashton, Brighton, Norbeck/Norwood, Brookeville, Laytonsville, Montgomery Village, Goshen, Cedar Grove, Damascus, Mt. Airy and Woodbine. Mt. Airy is divided by Carroll, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties. Woodbine lies in Carroll, Howard and Montgomery counties.
Nearby Derwood and Rock Creek are in proposed “District 6,” which also includes the east-central county communities of Aspen Hill and Wheaton, Glenmont and Forest Glen.
Leisure World and nearby Colesville, Cloverly, Layhill and Bel Pre/Strathmore are in a proposed “District 5,” which includes the eastern part of the county between the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) and Ednor Road, and includes Four Corners, Kemp Mill, White Oak, Hillandale, Calverton, Fairland, Burtonsville and Spencerville.
The other four districts include:
District 1— Southwestern portion on the county, including Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase, Palisades, Cabin John, Potomac and Travilah.
District 2 — Northwestern parts of the county, including Darnestown, Poolesville, Dickerson, Boyds, Barnesville, Germantown and Clarksburg.
District 3 — Municipalities of Rockville and Gaithersburg where there are residents, as well as Washington Grove and the area between the municipal boundaries.
District 4 — Southeast portion of the county and extends north by northwest from there, including Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Long Branch, West Silver Spring, Kensington, Garrett Park and North Bethesda.
The commission was charged with ensuring that all districts have:
Equal population: Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the County Charter requires that the legislative districts across the county be substantially equal in population. The commission is recommending districts that are plus or minus 5 percent of the County’s 2020 population divided by 7 (151,815).
Compactness: Having the minimum distance between all the parts of a constituency (a circle, square or a hexagon is the most compact district). The Commission recognizes that the shape of the county does not lend itself to district circles or squares, but considered compactness in its deliberations, avoiding excessively narrow districts. The commission was informed that there is no judicially approved test for compactness.
Contiguity: All parts of a district being connected at some point with the rest of the district. The commission’s recommended districts are contiguous (no island areas).
Minority representation: The commission gave due consideration to the racial composition of the county and the location of areas were people of color make up a majority of residents. However, race was never the sole consideration for the district recommendation, the commission reported.
Preservation of political subdivisions: This refers to municipal boundaries when drawing council districts. Resident populations of municipalities should not be split by the district boundaries recommended by the commission.
Preservation of communities of interest: Geographical areas, where the residents have common political interests. The commission tried not to split neighborhoods with a common affinity into multiple districts. The commission found that a map that did not split one community or another was not possible. The commission decided that the Cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg should be in a single district.
Part of the commission’s duties was to reach out to the community to explain the process, answer questions and seek comments.
Under the leadership of Commissioner Sam Statland, “commissioners actively sought to engage the community in the process of drawing new Council Districts as much as possible,” according to the commission’s report.
The commission contacted and presented a virtual PowerPoint presentation to 40 distinctive community stakeholder groups, including political parties, civic associations, communities of interest, county Regional Service Centers and Citizens Advisory Boards.
The Olney Chamber of Commerce, the Sandy Spring Civic Association and the Greater Olney Civic Association were among those who hosted virtual presentations on redistricting.
The commission received over 400 individual comments after three maps were presented for consideration, the commission reported.
The members of the Commission on Redistricting are as follows: Imad Aldean Ahmad, Laura Ard, Mariana Cordier, Keshia Desir, Arthur Edmunds, Valerie Ervin, Bruce Goldensohn, Jason Makstein, Nilmini Rubin, Samuel Statland and David Stein.
They represent the current five districts and a variety of political parties, including Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian and Unaffiliated.
To view the report, visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/BCC/redistricting/materials/FinalReport.pdf.
To view the Commission on Redistricting, visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/BCC/redistricting/index.html.
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