African-American leaders in Maryland are quite justifiably concerned with the recently released congressional redistricting map prepared by the Governor’s Redistricting Commission. As drawn, Maryland will continue to have only two majority-minority districts — the 4th and 7th — and each is likely to have fewer African-American voters.
Though African-Americans compose 30 percent of the state’s population, they are heavily concentrated in Baltimore City and county, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Combined, these four regions are home to 78 percent of the state’s African-American population (add Charles County, and the figure rises to 82 percent). With regard to the total population of the state, those four counties are home to only 56 percent of the state’s residents.
The concentrated nature of the African-American population creates a problem for Democrats when redistricting. African-Americans are the most reliable Democratic voting bloc, but the concentration in the central part of the state makes it difficult to offset more conservative voters in western, southern and northern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.
The only way to dilute those areas is to create districts that divide the African-American communities and join them with sometimes far-flung conservative areas. In the proposed map, one can see that this has been done in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th districts. Baltimore City’s 620,000 residents are divided among three congressional districts ; they help to create the majority-minority 7th congressional district, but “surplus” voters are then used to dilute more conservative suburbs in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and rural areas of Harford and Baltimore counties. In the last gubernatorial election Democratic incumbent Martin O’Malley won Baltimore city by a margin of 82 percent to 16 percent over Republican Bob Ehrlich. The two split the Baltimore county vote. In Anne Arundel, Ehrlich won 54 percent to 43 percent and in Harford he won 65 percent to 34 percent.
A single, compact and cohesive majority-minority district could be created by by joining all of Baltimore City with its southwest suburbs in Baltimore county, home to much of the county’s African-American population. But the results from 2010 gubernatorial election demonstrate why this was not an acceptable option. Republican voters in the surrounding communities needed to be offset. Baltimore City is divided across three districts solely for that purpose. To further dilute probable Republican voters, Baltimore and Anne Arundel County are divided across four districts and Harford across two.
[Continue reading Todd Eberly’s post at The FreeStater Blog.]
Todd Eberly blogs at The FreeStaterBlog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.