Public Hearing Set On Redistricting Maps

SALISBURY – A public hearing on a new councilmanic map will be held next month.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council met with representatives of the 2021 Redistricting Committee to discuss a proposed plan to reconfigure three councilmanic districts based on new Census data.

“The county is required after each Census, which is every 10 years, to appoint a redistricting commission to basically balance out the five councilmanic districts as best we can,” said committee chair Gail Bartkovich. “So each one of you who represents a district, it’s equal in the number of people you represent.”

Officials said 2020 Census data revealed Wicomico’s population had increased to 104,227. While the county’s population had grown by about 1,000 people a year in the last three or four decades, GIS Coordinator Frank McKenzie said the most recent data revealed a smaller growth rate.

“The last Census, we were about half that,” he said. “A lot of that was attributed to COVID. There were a lot of people who just didn’t want to fill out the forms.”

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Over the course of six meetings, McKenzie said, committee members evaluated ways to develop a councilmanic map with districts nearly equal in population.

“The council strives to move as few people as possible to maintain the districts …,” he said. “The goal of this is – and the requirements are – that each district must be equal in population. It’s impossible to hit that number on the money, so they allow a deviation of 5% below or above the ideal population.”

McKenzie noted the only district to not meet that deviation was District 4. Officials said the committee explored six different councilmanic map options. The recommended map change, they noted, moved three residents, located south of Route 50 in Willards, from District 3 to District 5, and 49 people located in the Village in the Park subdivision from District 3 to District 4.

Councilmembers this week commended committee members.

“There was a lot of angst when we realized what we had to do and what our timeframe was, especially with the COVID issues,” said Councilman John Cannon. “I’m really surprised that you even reviewed so many options instead of defaulting to what might be the easiest … I think this is a great conclusion, to come up with something that doesn’t seriously impact people but is still fair to the entire county.”

Councilman Bill McCain agreed.

“I know you had a lot of meetings and did a lot of work, but at the end of the day the goal is to impact the community as little as possible …,” he said. “In the end, you’ve come back with something that is very palatable.”

A public hearing on the proposed changes is set for Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. The final presentation can be viewed on the Wicomico County Council website.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.