The failure of the Democratic party to field candidates in the 2010 Harford County Council races could cost them a seat at the table.
Democrats appear to have failed to gain enough votes in this fall’s general election to allow them to participate in the political redistricting process, one which will redraw the county’s councilmanic districts for the next decade.
Every 10 years, government is charged with the task of redistricting political boundaries so that each representative voices the interest of the same percentage of citizens. It is one of the most important products of the U.S. Census—every 10 years, a few states gain, or lose, a congressional seat based on migration and population changes.
In Harford County, the process for redistricting was established when Home Rule, based on Charter government and the County Council, was created in 1974. Each of the six councilmanic districts are readjusted so that each citizen’s vote counts roughly the same along the principle of “one person, one vote.”
The Harford County Charter mandates that a commission be established every 10 years to suggest a new political district map to the County Council. Each political party that received at least 15 percent of the votes for all county council races gets to have representatives on the commission.
The Democratic party only fielded candidates in three of the seven council races: Dion Guthrie in District A, Jack Feldman in District C, and Mary Ann Lisanti in District F. Together, they received 17,907 votes.
The citizens of Harford County cast 159,618 votes for county council. Each citizen had the right to cast two votes, one for Council President and one for their district. Of the total votes cast, the Democrats received only 11.2 percent.
As a result, the Republican Central Committee for Harford County will now nominate five citizens of its choosing for the commission. The County Council will choose two of those citizens to serve on the commission, and will appoint one additional person of its own choosing.
Instead of the normal five-member commission, only three members will draw the councilmanic map to be used for the next 10 years.
The commission, once appointed, will have until Oct. 1 to submit its map to the council. The council must schedule a public hearing between 15 to 30 days from when it receives the map, and has 70 days from the date of that hearing to pass its own map into law.
In previous years, the council has made changes—often significant—to the commission’s map, as it is not bound to follow the map drawn by the commission. Still, Republicans will enjoy an advantage by taking first crack at redrawing the districts, an advantage which could help them keep their grip on political power county-wide.
The Democratic Central Committee for Harford County had defended not fielding candidates in all races on the grounds that the party wanted to concentrate its efforts on a handful of quality candidates that could win races. But the lack of votes received by those candidates now empowers Republicans to draw a map similar to the current one. By the Democratic Central Committee’s own admission, that map contains four seats—a majority of the council—in Republican-favored areas in which they would struggle to compete.