County Council approves new electoral map; redistricting eliminates challengers, divides College Park
By SOPHIE GORMAN ORIANI
Despite widespread citizen opposition, the Prince George’s County Council voted on Tuesday, Nov. 16, to accept a controversial redistricting map to change the boundaries of the county councilmanic districts. The new map divides the city of College Park.
County district boundaries are redrawn every ten years to ensure that the districts are equal in size following the U.S. Census. In January, the county council appointed a redistricting commission to propose a new map. Prince George’s County has nine districts, with one council member elected from each district, as well as two at-large members.
On September 1st, the redistricting commission proposed a map to the council. However, following a public hearing, the council held two work sessions and then proposed an alternate map in mid-October.
The alternate map was sponsored by Derrick Davis (District 6), Mel Franklin (at-large), Sydney Harrison (District 9), Calvin Hawkins (chair, at-large), Deni Taveras (vice chair, District 2), and Todd Turner (District 4).
Over 150 opponents of the new Davis-Franklin redistricting map registered to speak at the Nov. 17 county council meeting. Commenters said that the map had been gerrymandered, redrawn to favor some electoral candidates over others: in this case those who support unchecked development.
Under the Davis-Franklin map, the new boundaries result in two current council candidates and one likely, though unannounced candidate being placed into new districts, according to reporting by the Washington Post.
A person must have lived in a district for a year before running for office, so the redrawn boundaries make all three potential candidates ineligible to run for office next year.
In the case of College Park resident Eric Olson, who had already announced his intention to run for the District 3 seat, the map extends a long finger of District 1 down into District 3, leading to Olson’s house being redistricted into District 1. Olson served on the county council from 2006 to 2014, and has a reputation as an environmentalist and a progressive.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn spoke on behalf of the College Park city council, which voted unanimously to oppose the Davis-Franklin map. “The current proposed map divides College Park right through its center,” he said.
Dannielle Glaros, the current councilmember for District 3, which includes College Park, expressed her disappointment with the map and its impacts on the College Park neighborhood. “I deeply question the moral compass of my colleagues,” she said.
Deni Taveras, the vice chair of the council and the representative for District 2, defended the map on the grounds that the redistricting commission’s proposed map did not have enough time to review census data, which was delayed because of the pandemic. “This map does more for black and brown communities than any other map ever submitted,” she said.
The Davis-Franklin map passed 6-3. Glaros voted against it, along with Thomas Dernoga (District 1) and Jolene Ivey (District 5).