From the northern reaches of Frederick and Carroll counties to the southern end of Montgomery County, many voters are scratching their heads this election year wondering what congressional district their house has landed in — District 6 or District 8, or maybe even in District 3? — after Maryland lawmakers finished carving up the political landscape last year. Redistricting happens every decade following the U.S. census, but this time, the process divided counties, cities and neighborhoods in a manner in which the average citizen fails to see the logic.
On my own journey around the rural outskirts of Frederick County — long the territory of mostly conservative voters and the location of one of the most dramatic district line shifts — several residents were alarmed to learn they were no longer in the district of 10-term Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett. “Van Hollen? … Never heard that name,” Karen Franklin, sales manager at Ridge Cabinet Co. near Taylorsville, says of Democrat Chris Van Hollen, who has represented District 8 since 2003.
Once primarily a Montgomery County district, a large portion of the county (encompassing nearly 292,000 residents) was sliced off and put in District 6. Yet there’s still a dense population (totaling nearly 437,000 residents) around Rockville, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Takoma Park and Kensington — long a bastion of Democratic voters. Lawmakers added a swatch of Frederick and Carroll counties totaling nearly 285,000 residents. In these counties, voters tend to be more conservative yet scattered through increasingly rural areas as one moves north. It includes much of the eastern, northern and western section of Frederick County (outside Frederick city), as well as New Windsor and Westminster in Carroll County. The new northern section of the district — the largest as far as land mass — is connected to the southern Montgomery portion by a narrow stretch of land that squeezes through Laytonsville and Brookeville.
This western Maryland district was redrawn by deleting the parts of Harford and Baltimore counties where it once stretched, as well as rural strongholds throughout Frederick and Carroll counties — removing more than 378,000 residents, according to a Washington Post analysis. It retains Frederick city and adds a traditionally Democratic population from Montgomery County, including Poolesville and Gaithersburg. Then it wraps around the western edge of Rockville, adding in nearly 350,000 residents. Previously, Montgomery County was primarily in District 8, as well as District 4 that has been represented by Donna Edwards and was shoved further down to the border of D.C., crossing Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. District 6 still includes the westernmost territories of the state, including Washington, Allegheny and Garrett counties, running to the border of West Virginia and north to the edge of conservative southern Pennsylvania.
Written by Christina L. Lyons, copyright 2014 Frederick Magazine