Prince George's County Residents Push Back Ahead of Redistricting Vote

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Community leaders from across Prince George’s County gathered Thursday in protest of a new district map, calling it gerrymandering.

The Prince George's County Council will vote Tuesday on a new district line map that would drastically change who residents can vote for and who represents them.

“It makes a mockery of redistricting,” said Kelly Canavan of AMP Creeks Council. “It makes a mockery of the Prince George’s County community.”

“You would think that if the council people had any ethics at all, they would be totally embarrassed to have it known what they’re pushing for,” said Barbara Sollner-Webb of West Laurel Civic Association.

A redistricting commission made minor changes to council district lines to reflect census data. Then in a surprise move to some councilmembers, Councilman Derrick Davis introduced a drastically different map.

Supporters say it corrects districting mistakes from the past.

Opponents call it backroom politics that purposely protects incumbents from being challenged by strong candidates. They want the original map to be reinstated and a change in the next election.

“Certain people feel they can't get elected unless certain things are changed,” said JD Perkins of Vansville Heights.

The new map also divides some communities into two districts, separating residents from commercial areas near their homes.

“When you separate us, you separate our voices, you separate our power. You disenfranchise,” said Lan Tsubata of West Lanham Hills Association.

“We citizens deserve a process that is absent of perceived corruption,” said Kimberly Crews of Cool Spring Terrace Civic Association.

Redistricting commissions are created is to keep politicians from drawing lines that benefit them personally, but the Prince George's County Council has power to change what its commission recommends.

“No one is entitled to a seat,” Davis said. “You have to run for a seat in any district, and the districts are drawn by the county council through the process that's articulated in the charter.”

Thursday's rally was held outside of Cameron Grove, a retirement community that’s still at odds with Davis after accusing him of secretly modifying what can be developed on land near their homes.

The public will have a chance to speak Tuesday before the council votes on the new map.

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