Capital News Article

Huang, Cindy, Seven candidates apply to 2017 school board positions, May 11, 2016.

Snider Comment

Why were there so few (only two) candidates for District 21? The answer can partly be explained by its small size. There are five legislative districts in Anne Arundel County. Four are essentially identical in size (each representing approximately 128,000 people). Last I checked after the 2010 U.S. Census, District 21 represented about a quarter of that number of individuals. This violates the core Democratic principle of one-person, one-vote, but it is admittedly a relatively small violation and, as far as I can tell, not legally actionable under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment (at least, I know of no court case finding such unequal districts for candidate selection to be illegal).

Still, it’s not without some political significance. Candidates for District 21 have approximately 75% less potential competitors than candidates from other districts and less than 5% of the potential competitors as those seeking to represent at-large districts.

There also is a partisan slant to this unequal representation, illustrated by the fact that the three state delegates and state senator representing district 21 are Democrats. That helps explain why the much more logical district structure based on the seven equally sized county council districts has not been used despite the obvious conflict with one-person, one-vote democratic norms represented by District 21. Over the years I’ve testified numerous times before the state legislature about the various one-person, one-vote violations, including the District 21 problem, in the structure it set up for the SBNC. Whether we end up with an appointed or elected school board, I don’t see this trivial problem to solve going away because the General Assembly likes it the way it is.