Frederick County’s nine-member redistricting commission spent its inaugural meeting this week electing a chair and co-chair and being briefed on its responsibilities — and how the pandemic has made them more difficult — by county elections leaders.
At the Winchester Hall meeting, the commission elected James Racheff (D), president of DMS Health Technologies and adjunct professor at Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University, as chair. Bud Otis, politically unaffiliated, who served as the County Council’s first president, will be vice chair.
The commission comprises three Republican and three Democratic members, named to the council by the parties’ respective state central committees, and three unaffiliated members.
The Redistricting Commission will rely on data from the most recent census to review and, if necessary based on population change, redraw the county council’s districts.
Under normal circumstances, census data would’ve been available in April, but the pandemic delayed data collection and processing, county Election Director Stuart Harvey said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Consequently, raw data won’t be available to state officials until August, Harvey said, and the commission won’t have access to the information it needs to begin its work until September.
The commission’s final report is due to the council Nov. 9, Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said Wednesday, and the council has set Nov. 30 as the day for public input on the commission’s report.
The County Council has until Feb. 15 to vote on the plan, County Attorney Byron Black said Wednesday.
The county’s charter requires the council to form a Redistricting Commission every 10 years, following the census.
The charter stipulates that districts must be “compact, contiguous, substantially equal in population and have common interests as a result of geography, occupation, history or existing political boundaries.”
Districts 1 and 2, in the southwestern and southeastern parts of the county, have seen the most population growth since the first council was elected in 2014. That came after the county changed its form of government and moved from the five-member board of county commissioners to the seven-member County Council.
Councilman Jerry Donald (D) currently represents District 1, while Councilman Steve McKay (R) serves District 2.
The Redistricting Commission will know its next meeting date within the next few weeks, County Council Chief of Staff Ragen Cherney said. The body will assemble its meeting calendar at their next meeting.
In addition to Racheff and Otis, the commission’s members are Kyle Bostian, Ryan Yamagata, Blaine Young Jr., Dylan Diggs, John Distel, Flor De Maria Garay and Mark Jafari.