LARGO, Md. (Reform Sasscer) Despite widespread and passionate opposition to a redistricting proposal in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, council members voted 6-3 on Tuesday in favor of moving ahead with the plan.
The county council’s vote to move forward followed around six hours of testimony including more than 150 speakers, who were universally opposed to the plan and urged council members to reject it. However, Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) and Mel Franklin (D-At Large), Council Chair Calvin S. Hawkins II (D-At Large); Council Vice Chair Deni Taveras (D-District 2); and council members Todd M. Turner (D-District 4) and Sydney J. Harrison (D-District 9) voted in favor of the map.
Council members Jolene Ivy (D-District 5) and Thomas E. Dernoga (D-District 1), who also voted against the map, said they hoped that residents would not be disheartened but galvanized to participate in an already-heated election season.
“It is a question of whether each of you see yourselves as public servants or as the kind of politician who serves their own interests before those of the people they represent,” said Daniel Oates, president of the Calvert Hills Citizens Association.
The controversy stemmed from an October meeting when council member Derrick Leon Davis proposed using his own redistricting map instead of one produced by a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
That led to accusations from activists and other members of the community that the council was being undemocratic and resorting to partisan gerrymandering.
“The Prince George’s County NAACP would like for the council to consider using the commission map,” said Linda Thornton-Thomas, president of the county’s NAACP chapter. “It’s based on population. We think that’s the fair way to go.”
The map produced by Davis — which is what the council approved on Tuesday — creates a majority Latino district in District 2. It will have a significant impact on elections for council seats.
For example, former Council member Eric Olson was running for an open seat in District 3, but he will need to run against an incumbent in District 1 under the new map.“It came to light without a shocking lack of transparency and without any meaningful community input,” said Sarah Turberville, a member of the town council in Edmonston.
Turberville said the map and the process by which it was crafted “creates the perception, if not the reality, of a political gerrymander.”
Council members who voted in favor of the map said that it accounted for demographic changes and growth in the county’s population. However, Davis’s map, introduced Oct. 14, removes from their districts former council member Eric Olson, who planned to run in District 3; Krystal Oriadha, who planned to run in District 7; and Tamara Davis Brown, who was considering running in District 9 in a clear sign of conspiracy to lockout competitors and keep the status quo in place. Maintaining the existing state of affairs in place ensures moneys will continue to be stolen organically from the county coppers due to lack of accountability.