Cecil County Census: Criminals Add to Population; Possible Redistricting Impact

March 26, 2011

Cecil County’s criminal element costs taxpayers a lot of money, from the harm they inflict on the community by their crimes to the costs of bringing them to justice in court and incarcerating them. But now 179 of our least productive citizens have done us a small favor: a slight boost in the county’s population under revised census figures. But statewide, the criminals could have an impact on redistricting for Congress and state legislative seats.

The criminals don’t even live here any more. They are incarcerated in state prisons located in other counties. But because they lived here before being locked up, they have been added to our local population under a 2010 state law.

The “No Representation without Population Act” required that the state re-calculate the official US census data, for the purpose of redistricting for congressional and state legislative districts, to apportion state prison inmates to their home counties. In the past, Washington, Allegany and Somerset counties have had large artificial boosts in census population figures because inmates at state prisons located in those counties were counted as residents.

Now, Cecil County’s official population is listed as 101,287, up 179 from the initial Census report of 101,108. (See county-by-county revised count as reported by the State Data Center:

While that small boost in Cecil County’s population might not seem like a big deal, it has implications for the redistricting process for Maryland seats in Congress and the state House and Senate. Overall shifts in the allocation of prisoners could affect district lines for the 1st and 2nd Congress seats and some local state legislative districts.

Anne Arundel County, which is included in both the 1st and 2nd congressional districts, lost 3,309 population due to the presence of state prison facilities whose inmates were re-allocated to their home counties. (Out of state residents were excluded from the revised count even though they are now living in state prisons.)

And on the Eastern Shore, Somerset county lost 2,716 population—a 10.3 percent change for the small county. Somerset is included in the congressional district that is now represented by Rep. Andy Harris (R-1).

Under the census revisions, the ideal Congress district should include a population of 721,529. But the 1st district exceeds that figure by 21,538, indicating that lines must be redrawn under “one person, one vote” rules to shift that many voters to another district.

Moreover, the adjoining 2nd District, now represented by Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger, will have to expand to take in more voters, since it came up 17,705 residents short of the ideal district population.

The Eastern Shore is expected to remain in the 1st District under most scenarios for redistricting, but the real action will be in the fine-tuning of western shore counties currently included in the district, including Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

For the state Senate, the revised census data means that the “ideal” population for each district should be 122,813, according to the state Department of Planning. For a one-member House of Delegates district, the population should be 40,938. For districts with two delegates, the ideal population would be 81,875. For three-delegate districts, such as the 36th the total is the same as a Senate district—122,813.

So District 36 for both Senate and House seats must shed 14,671 residents under the new census data. And that’s where the redistricting fun could begin.

Removing the half of Caroline County now included in District 36 would be the easiest way to bring the population to the required level. The county has delivered mostly Republican votes in state legislative contests.

With the prisoner population loss in Somerset county, state district lines on the lower Shore will have to shift, and some of that fallout could reach into Caroline county.

But the more intriguing prospect would be to create a Cecil County/Kent County district, with a population of about 121,533, close to the ideal size. That would unify the growing Cecil County community instead of carving it up into slivers as it is now. It would also bring more Democratic votes to bear into selecting District 36 representation, which is currently all-Republican.

Currently, Cecil County is split into two Senate districts and three House of Delegates districts—with a total of two senators and six state delegates. Just a tiny sliver of Cecil’s election district 7 is dumped into Harford County-based Dist. 34A for the House with two delegates representing it. Also, Del. David Rudolph, a Democrat, holds the rest of the western Cecil County District 34B, and the multi-county Dist. 36 has three other delegates. Voters are perpetually confused about how their delegates are selected and who actually represents them, such as when a voter in Cecilton is being represented by a Queen Anne’s county resident.

But political self-interest gravitates against that scenario. Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-34) owes her re-election to the Cecil County half of her district and now that she is Minority Leader of the state Senate, she is in a position to influence redistricting maps that will be created in time for the 2014 state elections.

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