Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a fight over the future political boundaries of Harford County, in what has quickly become the most heated showdown between the parties since the 2010 elections. Some might even say this current clash rivals any seen during the relatively uninspired General Election campaign, which is precisely the cause of the present dust-up.
The failure of the Democratic party to challenge Republicans in several of the 2010 Harford County Council races left the Democrats shy of the percentage needed to have a seat at the table as the county begins the process of redistricting its political boundaries.
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.
In a series of letters circulated this week, the respective chairs of the Democratic and Republican Central Committees of Harford County stated their cases. Democrats assert the “old provision” was intended to weed out fringe political groups, not a party that constitutes 42% of the registered voters in the county, and beg the County Council to nominate Democrats to the redistricting commission. Republicans say they “believe in an America that follows the rules, even when we don’t like the rules” and urge the County Council not to let the Democrats off the hook for what is their own failure as a party.
Both parties are putting a call out for members to attend Tuesday’s Harford County Council meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the A.A. Roberty Building at 102 South Hickory Avenue in Bel Air.
The following letter was written by Wendy Sawyer, chair of the Democratic Central Committee of Harford County, and was disseminated by the New Harford Democratic Club:
Dear Fellow Democrat,
This week the Harford County Council intends to silence the voices of over 60,000 county residents, including YOU, by excluding any Democratic representation on the Redistricting Commission. The Redistricting Commission is charged with drawing local election districts for the next 10 years! The Republicans that control the County Council will use this opportunity to Gerrymander those districts in such a way that your vote will have little impact on local races. WE CANNOT ALLOW 42% OF HARFORD’S CITIZENS TO BE IGNORED.
The Republicans are using an old provision in the County charter to justify their actions. What they don’t tell you is that they neglected to correct the charter when the voters decided to chose council representatives by district. Now they want to try and use it to disenfranchise every Democrat in this county! It is time to stand up to those that arrogantly use their own oversight to mislead you. It is time to tell the Council that you will not allow their illegal interpretation of the county charter to silence your voice!
CLICK HERE TO TELL THE HARFORD COUNTY COUNCIL THAT YOU WILL NOT BE IGNORED!
Click on the link above to tell the Harford County Council that they must follow the law and allow Democratic representation on the Redistricting Commission. It is the legal thing to do. It is the right thing to do. Can we count on you to stand up for what is right? Click here to message the Harford County Council telling them that you demand they follow the law and seat Democrats on the Redistricting Commission.
Thank you for standing up for the people of Harford County!
Chairperson, Democratic Central Committee of Harford County
Not to be outdone, or out-rallied, J. Scott DeLong, Chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Harford County, issued the following letter:
Well there they go again!
The Harford Democratic party is once again trying to use lawyers to fix their mistakes instead of taking responsibility, regardless of the law.
Per Article 2 Section 205 (a) of the Harford County Charter, the Harford County Council will appoint the Redistricting Commission for the Councilmanic Districts on February 15th. Every 10 years, there is a Census done nationally, and once the results come in, every legislative district is re-apportioned to evenly distribute voters.
The Harford County Charter states “a commission on redistricting, composed of two members from each political party chosen from a list of five names submitted by the Central Committee of each political party which polled at least fifteen percent of the total vote cast for all candidates for the County Council in the immediately preceding regular election.”
This law is in place so that all active political parties can have a seat at the redistricting table. In the most recent 2010 elections, there were no Democratic County Council candidates for 4 of the 7 Councilmanic races and therefore, the Democratic candidates got less than 15% of the total votes cast for the County Council.
The Democratic Party is crying foul and claiming there is a GOP conspiracy to disenfranchise them. As a result of their failure to field candidates for multiple county council offices they did not meet the minimum required threshold of votes to qualify. Now, after they failed to meet their duties, they are going to hire a lawyer to change the result in their favor.
As Republicans, we believe in an America that follows the rules, even when we don’t like the rules. There is a process to change the rules, and the process must be followed to ensure fairness and equality for all Americans.
We cannot allow the Democrats to try to cover their mistakes and subvert the County Charter through litigation in order to save face with their voters.
We need you, the heart & soul of the GOP to come to the Harford County Council meeting on Tuesday February 15th. The meeting is at 7:30 in the AA Roberty Building 102 South Hickory Avenue in Bel Air (across from the fire house). We need your presence and your voices to let the County Council know that the Democratic Party needs to abide by the letter of the law.
The email addresses of the County Council are below: Ask them to do the right thing, and follow the letter of the law! If the Democrats really wanted to be involved in the redistricting process, they should have fielded candidates for all the Councilmanic races, not just the safe ones.
Feel free to send me an email or call me with any questions about this.
J. Scott DeLong
Republican Central Committee of Harford County