Fair maps a must for better representation in Baltimore County

By Peta Richkus.

Ignoring the will of the people is not responsive nor accountable government.

The map proposed by the Council’s Redistricting Commission flies in the face of the Constitutional right of every individual to representative government. It intentionally dilutes representation of the approximately 47% of Baltimore County’s BIPOC population.

The Council should not so easily dismiss the threat (and the cost!) of legal action if significant changes to the map are not made. ACLU and NAACP know something about successfully challenging the County in Court. Former MD Secretary of State John Willis (attorney, historian of MD politics, and someone who knows a great deal about redistricting) also predicts a court case if the proposed map is not changed in response to the criticisms raised.

The Council should be aiming for Best Practices regarding the redistricting process.

Not providing the legally-required minimum 7 day notification for this meeting is a problem. The solution: The Council should schedule additional public meetings with adequate public notice.

The Redistricting Commission seems to have ignored the 106 pages of written testimony and many hours of in-person testimony in its report. The solution: The Council should include that testimony in its own due diligence.

The tone-deaf  comments of some Commissioners and their Report’s claims contradict what should be an open, objective process. The solution: Denounce the Report’s claim that “demographic concentration” and the “limitations created by the geography and physical shape of Baltimore County” preclude creating two Majority Black districts.

Because this is factually untrue. ACLU/NAACP offered one possible map. Two Indivisible Towson members came up with another alternative. Clearly, additional solutions can be found.

Redistricting is Baltimore County’s opportunity:

  • to fairly reflect our growing and diversifying population
  • to put voters’ interests first, and
  • to help ensure we, the voters, can choose our elected representatives –  not the other way around.

We must – in this once-in-a-decade redistricting process – make sure we get fair maps that allow the growing populations of Baltimore County’s minority voters to have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

Additionally, it is long past time to support community cohesion by factoring in the logic of community boundaries. The current district lines – set 10 years ago – divide and undermine communities, like my own community of Towson. The proposed district lines, 10 years later, do the same thing.

The Council can and must do better.

Peta Richkus is a retired State employee. MD Secretary of General Services, Jan 1999 – Jan 2003; Commissioner, Port of Baltimore, MD Port Administration, Jul 2008 – Jan 2014.

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