District lines likely to shift with census
With money at stake, counties up for the count
Even though the census won't be conducted until next year, migration trends point to the possible political fallout from the decennial population count.
Growth in Southern Maryland, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore could mean the 5th, 6th and 1st Congressional Districts would shed precincts.
And at least one Baltimore city legislative district is likely to add a portion of Baltimore County.
Of course, any speculation is premature. Or, as John T. Willis said: "You could draw a map a thousand different ways."
Willis is the former Maryland secretary of state who helped draw the boundaries in 2002. He is now director of the government and public policy program at the University of Baltimore.
Congressional lines, Willis said, are like a "squeeze toy" squeeze one place and another bulges out.
Assuming the census finds Maryland with about 5.7 million people, each of its eight congressional districts would have about 710,000 people. That represents a jump of 50,000 or so from the 2000 census, which would mean each district needs to grow by about 50,000 residents.
The 5th District includes all of Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties, as well as large portions of Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. According to Maryland Department of Planning data, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties grew by 49,699 from April 1, 2000, to July 1, 2008.
The 6th District currently covers nine counties, including all of Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, as well as portions of Montgomery, Baltimore and Harford counties. The planning data show that the five westernmost counties have grown by 62,362.
The 1st District includes the nine counties on the Eastern Shore, as well as parts of Baltimore and Harford counties. The Eastern Shore has grown by 42,054.
The planning department does not report population data by congressional district.
The legislative side is even harder to predict, because the state has 47 senatorial districts, and some of those have two or more delegate districts.
"There will be some shifting, and the extent of the shifting depends on the quality of the census count," Willis said.
For that reason, Willis is part of Baltimore's effort to make sure as many people as possible are counted.
Local governments around the state are planning efforts to improve the census count. On Wednesday, Montgomery County announced its push to reach underreported populations.
The census affects much more than political district boundaries. The U.S. government distributes about $400 billion based on a jurisdiction's population statistics.
The congressional lines, drawn in 2002, were reconfigured in an effort to improve Democrats' standing in Congress.
It worked. In 2000, the state had four Republican representatives. After redistricting, the state had just two.
The data, however, show that Baltimore city is likely to lose some clout in the General Assembly. Planning department numbers say the city's population has slipped by 14,235, which means at least one state senatorial district would have to pick up precincts from outside the city, Willis said.
The Census Bureau will provide population counts by December 2010. And whoever wins the 2010 gubernatorial election will receive the precinct-by-precinct census data in early 2011, said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington.
The governor likely will seat a commission to study the data, hold hearings around the state and then come up with his own map of congressional districts.
Maryland law says the General Assembly has 45 days to make changes after the new lines for the eight districts are presented.
"It will be out and discussed for a long period of time," Madaleno said. "And it will be eight people calling us to tell us their feeling eight very interested parties calling us."
The legislature likely will have a special session during which the plan will be adopted or changed, Madaleno said. Legislative districts, because they won't be needed until 2014, likely will wait.
But the congressional lines need to be drawn in time for the 2012 primary. Because it's a presidential election year, the primary will be in February. The filing deadline for offices will be 90 days before that, or early November 2011. That means the legislature will need the plan by mid-September, giving the redistricting panel about six months to do its work.