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Baltimore County redistricting map hits brick wall

Lauren Watley, Baltimore County Government
Baltimore County Council

Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones said he likely will delay introducing legislation that lays out how the county’s seven council districts should be redrawn.

Jones said Wednesday he had hoped to introduce a redistricting map this coming Monday, but council members are at an impasse over how to proceed.

“Right now, we’re not there yet,” Jones said.

It takes at least five of the seven council members to pass a new council district map. The council finds itself caught between demands that it create a second Black majority district, and concerns that can only be done by splitting some communities up into two council districts.

“We’re exploring every idea that anyone brings up and trying to get to that magic map where we have five votes,” Jones said.

Various groups, including the Randallstown Branch of the NAACP, the Baltimore County NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland have drawn maps that create a second Black majority district. The map proposed by the county’s redistricting commission keeps things as they are with one Black majority district whose population is more than 70% African American.

The ACLU is threatening to sue the county if the council does not draw a second Black majority district. Baltimore County’s population is about 30% Black.

Republican Councilman David Marks said the three G-O-P council members support creating the second Black majority district to avoid getting sued.

“I think we should be doing everything possible to avoid an unelected judge drawing our council map,” Marks said.

But council members are concerned that drawing that second Black majority district would come at the expense of splitting up communities like Catonsville or Pikesville into two council districts. They say that can limit a community’s influence.

The council must adopt a map by January 31.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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