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Ethnicity, Growth Hurdles for Redistricting

City officials say it will be hard to create a Hispanic minority-majority ward in Hyattsville.

Ethnicity, Growth Hurdles for Redistricting

Members of Hyattsville's redistricting committee say they have run into a diversity problem which could hamper one of their goals as they set out to redraw the city's political boundaries. The issue is that the city's Hispanic population, while generally concentrated in West Hyattsville, is spread out just enough to make it difficult to create a ward where Hispanics make up a dominant share of residents and voters.

"The city is so diverse, that it is hard to get more than 50 percent of one racial group in one ward," said David Rain, chairman of Hyattsville's redistricting committee, at a lightly attended

Based on the growth of the Hispanic population over the last 10 years, city officials are keen to give that group a minority-majority ward, one in which Hispanics make up around 60 percent of a ward's population. Instead, city officials may have to settle for a minority-opportunity ward, one in which Hispanics make up the largest ethnic group in a ward.

Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, Hyattsville added about 3,500 residents to its population, growing from roughly 14,000 residents to roughly 17,500 residents.

In that time, Hyattsville's Hispanic population increased from 2,670 residents to 5,970, most of it in West Hyattsville in Ward 4 and Ward 3.

Data released during breaks down the ward populations as they currently stand, giving an idea of which ones will see the most changes.

The largest ward right now is Ward 3, represented by councilors Timothy Hunt and Matthew McKnight. The ward, which straddles both sides of Queens Chapel Road and stretches from the city's northernmost neighborhood, University Hills, down to (roughly) Hyattsville Middle School, has a population of 4,551 according to the 2010 Census. Much of its growth between census counts came from the mid-decade annexation of University Hills.

Next largest is Ward 4, with a 2010 population of 4,066. Ward 4, lying entirely west of Queens Chapel Road is represented by councilors Carlos Lizanne and Paula Perry.

Southwest Hyattsville's Ward 5, represented by councilors Ruth Ann Frazier and Nicole Hinds Mofor had an even 3,300 residents counted in the 2010 Census.

The next smallest is Ward 1, represented by Candance Hollingsworth and Eric Wingard, with a population of 2,994. Despite its relatively small size, it is considered a prime candidate for a more dramatic redistricting. Shaped like a jagged "U" It wraps around the southern end of the city, but it is impossible to drive from east to west across it without traveling through another ward.

Ward 2 has the smallest population right now. Represented on City Council by Shani Warner and David Hiles, the 2010 Census counted only 2,646 residents living in it.

Federal redistricting regulations require that the city's population be split among the wards as equally as possible. By law, the populations of the redrawn wards cannot deviate more than plus or minus five percent from each other. This means each ward would ideally have 3,515 residents under a new plan. That also means the new wards can only differ by no more or less than roughly 350 residents.

One complicating factor in the redistricting process is the proximity of some city councilors to their ward boundaries. Perry, Warner, McKnight and Wingard all live within spitting distance of their ward boundaries. Members of the redistricting committee are sensitive to perceived concerns about drafting new boundaries which would move incumbents out of their existing wards.

Federal redistricting regulations does not outright prohibit this, but it is recommended that such moves be avoided where possible. There are also political implications for any plans which move incumbents out of their wards. Such an act could draw opposition from those redistricted councilors who may be eyeing another term and leery of having to pitch themselves to an unfamiliar constituency.

Rain said that preliminary redistricting proposals produced by his committee will be presented to the City Council by Feb. 15.

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