SNOW HILL — Because a population boom from 2000 to 2010 has thrown Worcester County Commissioner Districts out of alignment, the county will move to adopt a new re-districting map this summer.
Development Review and Permitting Director Ed Tudor gave the commissioners a look at the current draft map this week, which would re-cut districts in a manner that would prevent huge population discrepancies and still retain a majority-minority district.
The new draft map would manage the population boom discovered in the 2010 Census. That study found that the population in Worcester reached 51,548 and grew by 5,005, or 10.8 percent, from 2000 to 2010. This impacted all seven commissioner districts, some dramatically. Because minority growth was lower than the other population, maintaining a district with a majority of minorities requires adjustments.
“Retaining the current County Commissioner Districts fails to retain the majority-minority district and would result in an unacceptable population deviation of up to 24.8 percent in the Sinepuxent District,” wrote Tudor in a memo to the commission, “as compared to the ideal population of 7,364 per district. Maximum deviation should be no more than 5 percent. The draft map successfully retains the majority-minority district with acceptable deviations.”
Under the new map, the Sinepuxent District, which includes West Ocean City, would drop from 9,188 to 7,485, only 1.64 percent from the district ideal of 7,364. The other six districts would also change to come as close to that 7,364 ideal figure as possible. No district on the new map would have more than a 4.9 percent deviation from that population benchmark.
The draft map would also preserve a majority-minority district, which is required by law. As of the 2010 census, Worcester had a minority population of 18.1 percent. That number had only grown by 6.5 percent, or 570, from 2000 to 2010. Boundaries would be altered in a way that the central district would exist with a slight minority majority, in this case 395 more people who were identified as a minority compared to the white population. The central district comprises parts of Newark, Snow Hill and Berlin.
“Staff has been working on a series of maps for your consideration. We’ve got a map available now that we believe meets all of the parameters,” said Tudor.
Other priorities evidenced with the new map was an effort to keep the boundaries of current districts “to the extent feasible” and to respect the boundaries of the new State Legislative Districts 38A and 38C, again to the extent possible.
The commissioners made no vote on the map this week but did agree to set three public meetings when county residents will get a chance to study the re-districting and submit questions, comments or concerns. The hearings will fall between July 29 and Aug. 2, though specific dates have not yet been decided. There will be one hearing in the south end of the county, one in the central and one in the north.
After the initial round of hearings, any comments received will be reviewed on Aug. 6, at which time the draft map can be amended, “if necessary.” On Aug. 20, a legislative bill will be introduced to formally adopt the new map. A public hearing will follow on Sept. 17 for the legislative bill with the commission then being able to cast a final vote on adopting the new commissioner districts.
In the months leading up to that final hearing and vote, the commission agreed that public awareness is vital. The new draft map will be posted near Tudor’s office as well as the commissioners meeting area, both in the government building in Snow Hill. The map will be available at all three of the initial public hearings at the end of July, which will take place at 7 p.m. It will also be posted online at www.co.worcester.md.us