Coalition Threatens Court Fight Over Redistricting Plan
African-American voting rights groups, Republicans join to oppose O'Malley plan.
A coalition of African-American voting rights groups and Republicans announced they will oppose Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to redraw the state's eight congressional districts and warned that they intend to take the issue to court.
Carletta Fellows, a spokeswoman for the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC, called O'Malley's plan "institutional racism" and said it violates the federal Voting Rights Act by not creating a third majority minority district.
O'Malley's plan, which will have a hearing Monday afternoon, apparently attempts to protect six incumbent Democratic U.S. House members. There would also be changes for a Republican-held district, made up mostly of western Maryland, that would make elections there more competitive by adding part of Montgomery County.
O'Malley said earlier on Monday that the maps were fair and would pass legal review although he acknowledge some of the proposed districts "are more diverse than others."
Fellows said Monday that if the legislature doesn't pass a plan that includes three majority minority districts, "we will be filing a grievance with the United States Department of Justice."
She added that the group would also likely challenge the plan in federal court.
Both Fellows and Mykel Harris, representing the state Republican Party, said they favored the passage of a plan sponsored by state Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Hough, Republicans who represent the upper Eastern Shore and Western Maryland respectively.
In creating a third majority minority district in the Washington suburbs, the Pipken-Hough plan would place Democrat Reps. Steny Hoyer and John Sarbanes in one district that stretches south from Anne Arundel County to St. Mary's County.
Harris said the governor's plan protects incumbents and attempts to expand Democratic rule as it dilutes the growing voting power of African-Americans and Hispanics who both saw population increases in the state over the last decade.
"You now have fiefdoms where Lord Such and Such lives down the way," Harris said.
The state senate is scheduled to take up the plan first after an afternoon hearing.
State senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said he believes O'Malley's plan will receive the 29 votes needed for passage. Miller, who was a member of the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Commission, said he believes the plan meets the requirements of keeping the districts equal in size as well as the meeting the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.