TheBayNet Letter to the Editor

CALIFORNIA, Md. The following letter was sent to us by Vernon Gray of California, Maryland.

“In the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly, Del. Brian Crosby (D) introduced legislation (HB0655) to change the election of four of the five county commissioners in St. Mary’s County from at-large to by-district. He did not reintroduce the bill in 2022 while seeking reelection, suggesting his awareness of public opposition. Now, in 2023, he has again done so in HB0447. 

St. Mary’s County is divided into nine election districts. The county is also divided into four commissioner districts for geographical residency purposes; otherwise, the county commissioners might reside coincidentally in one area of the county. Commissioner districts were not created for the purpose of representation. County commissioners are elected by a general/at-large vote to represent the entirety of the county – not separate districts. 

According to Crosby, at-large voting discriminates against racial/ethnic minorities. If true, why was no mention made of it by the Democrats, including the NAACP, prior to 2021? Why, when for decades Democrats won local elections and controlled the county government and agencies, was at-large voting not an issue? 

The actual motivation is that at-large voting has become unfavorable to Democrats in St. Mary’s County. For example, the last Democrat elected as a county commissioner was in 2010 and it has been 12 years since the Democrats controlled the board. In 2012, Democrats also lost being the largest party in voter registrations in the county. So, if Democrats cannot win at-large elections, the solution is to change the election law. 

Crosby employs the virtue signaling pretexts of democracy and social justice to disguise what is simply partisan, identity-based politics. Based on minority demographics, he perceives a possibility of electing Democrats in by-district elections. Yet, in the 2022 general election, if it had been by-district, none of the Democrat’s county commissioner candidates would have won. 

A change to by-district county commissioner elections has the potential, over time, to instill an atmosphere of factional parochialism, negatively affecting the equitable allocation of resources to the needs of areas of the county. Elected officials might only pander to a localized constituency rather than the interests of all. 

While the Democrats profess their dedication to and protection of democracy, by-district elections restrict participatory democracy. In this case, instead of voting for all five county commissioners, voters will have only the choice of two – one at-large commissioner president and one by-district commissioner. From voters having a full say in elections, they are relegated to only two-fifths. 

The proposed change to by-district elections will be consequential to the county’s governance. Therefore, the decision whether to make this change should be ratified or rejected by the voters in a referendum, which Crosby opposes. 

In a Sep. 18, 2020, statement, Crosby said, “Voting is the fundamental principle of democracy; there is no right more precious or sacred.” Yet, in HB0447, Crosby imposes voter suppression and disenfranchisement, unless a referendum decides the issue. “

Vernon Gray 

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