The Chestertown Council established a redistricting committee by unanimous vote on Tuesday to redraw the districts by the next town election. Each council member submitted names from their wards to serve on the committee.
The new committee is in response to a letter from the ACLU of Maryland in mid-January that implored the town to correct its malapportioned voting districts and create a ward with a “substantial plurality” of black voters.
The districts were last reapportioned in 1995.
“The existing four-ward election system in Chestertown is severely malapportioned, and also unfairly dilutes black voting strength,” said Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, in a letter to Mayor Chris Cerino on Jan. 17.“It is imperative that the problems of Chestertown’s election system be corrected in advance of the next election.”
Chestertown last apportioned its districts in 1995–and since then the population of Ward 3 has swelled to twice that of Ward 1.
“Thus giving individual voters of Ward 1 a disproportionate voice in local elections, and Ward 3 voters proportionately less,” Jeon said in her January letter.
Cerino charged the councilmembers with submitting 2 names for each ward by the Feb. 18 meeting and they were unanimously approved.
Ward 1: Former Ward 3 Councilman Sam Shoge and Vic Pfeiffer
Ward 2: Charles Taylor and Linda Dawson
Ward 3: Rebecca Murphy (2nd name to be submitted at the next council meeting).
Ward 4: William Maloney and Kitty Maynard
Cerino said the goal of the committee would be to have new lines drawn by the end of 2020, and the committee meetings would be supervised by Town Manager Bill Ingersoll.
Cerino said the wards would not be finalized until the results of the 2020 census are in.
“I suggest we wait until the new census information becomes public [so] we can double check the numbers and the ethnic break downs,” he said.
When asked if the council would consider a map recommended by the ACLU in January, Cerino said it would be a consideration for the new committee.
“I wouldn’t say it is totally off the table but I don’t think they should be making our maps for us,” Cerino said. “It certainly can be used as one of the possible templates for the committee to look at. If the committee comes up with a different map I think [the ACLU] would be more than welcome to review it.”
Cerino suggested the committee invite the ACLU and the NAACP to attend meetings.