Every 10 years, after the census, all levels of government are supposed to look at their districts and make adjustments to ensure equal population density in each, however, this process often gets highly political. Prince George’s County has a Redistricting Commission whose whole purpose is to try to avoid the pitfalls of politics and gerrymandering when drawing our district lines. In mid-October, the Commission was set to present 3 maps to the council, so the council could pick one and move forward. But many in the room were surprised when Councilman Derek L. Davis (D-District 6) dropped his own map on the table.
The Commission maps made minimal changes and were careful not to fence any of the currently declared or expected campaigns out of their districts. The Davis map made some radical changes to certain districts and had the side effect of pushing several candidates for Council out of their current districts, including Tamara Davis-Brown, who was planning a run in our District. Because the law says you have to live in your district for 5 years before you can run, the Davis map means that several people who were either already declared or expected to run, are no longer eligible for council.
The minority on the council attempted to make amendments or push off the vote until they had adequate time to review the ramifications of the Davis map, however, Davis, along with Council Chair Hawkins (D-At Large) and Turner (D-District 4) attempted to limit amendments, end the debate, and force a vote.
When the minority called out the process Davis had used as “not transparent”, Davis was unapologetic about keeping several councilmembers in the dark about his map.
“Every council member had the opportunity to develop a map, and I evidently was the only one that chose to go through that process, what I was doing was skillfully using Robert’s Rules of Order to advance the idea. I do big things on purpose, maybe not everybody was focused on redistricting. … Councilmember Ivey and them, they seem to be caught off-guard an awful lot,” he said in an interview with Maryland Matters.
Councilmember Jolene Ivey (D-District5) responded by calling the process outrageous and undemocratic. “It’s offensive for the council member who pushed for a property tax increase proposal to be put on the ballot last year – in deceitful language – is now pretending to be a skillful legislator,” she told Maryland Matters. “Our residents deserve honesty and transparency. Council Member Derrick Leon Davis has not given his constituents the representation they deserve.”
Residents were also not happy with Davis, the majority who voted with him (which included our District 9 Member Harrison), or the way this was done. At the November 16 Council Meeting, 150 citizens spoke for over 6 hours, each one urging the council to vote against the Davis map. However, despite the public outcry, the council voted 6-3 to adopt the map. Voting for the map was Davis, Hawkins, Taveras (D-District 2), Franklin (D-At Large), Harrison, and Turner. Voting against were Dernoga (D-District 1), Glaros (D-District 3), and Ivey. One seat is vacant and Streeter (D-District 7) was out sick.
“There is no justice today with this decision,” Glaros (D-District 3) said.