A challenge to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s new redistricting plan is moving forward in federal court after a judge countered the argument of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler.

Several groups have accused O’Malley of racially gerrymandering districts for the greater gain of the Democratic Party in state and federal elections. One of those people, state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D.-Dist. 26, says the plan introduced by O’Malley was unfair to many of Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens.

“I believe this plan is absolutely wrong and unfair to the voiceless citizens of our state who expect redistricting to provide culturally diverse communities the opportunity to be represented both efficiently and effectively,” said Muse in a statement. “I have remained strong in my position that this plan does not reflect the best interest of the people I was sent here to represent. It pits the party against the people.”

Another group opposing the plan is the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee (FLH-PAC) of Prince George’s County. This group agrees with Muse that the state’s plan does not represent the best interests of Maryland residents, especially those of color.

“In a democracy, governments are only legitimate when districts are drawn to represent communities of interest. The operative words are ‘compact and contiguous districts,’” said Carletta Fellows of the FLH-PAC in a statement. “The State of Maryland has egregiously ignored the concept of compact and contiguous districts in drawing their congressional plan, instead they chose to violate the of federal laws such as equal protection derived by the U.S. Constitution, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and One-Person-One-Vote.”

One unexpected group fighting the battle though is the Legacy Foundation of Iowa. The conservative group run by former speaker of the Iowa House, Christopher Rants, is working with the FLH-PAC to fight the case in court. The Legacy Foundation, expecting a possible costly battle, is asking for donations via its website.

Gansler disagrees with the claims though. He tried to get the claim dismissed saying that the groups failed to show legitimate proof that the new map discriminated against minorities.

“The State Plan is the product of careful consideration of a variety of legitimate districting principles, including equality of population, maintaining the core of existing districts, protecting communities of interest, respecting existing representational relationships and many others,” Gansler wrote in his motion to dismiss. “Plaintiffs recognize that race was not the ‘predominate factor’ in the redistricting in the complaint itself, which claims that the state plan was motivated by partisan purposes.”

Despite Gansler’s objections, the complaint goes forward to the delight of Muse who says this is the type of things people fought against during the Civil Rights Movement.

“I believe this type of gerrymandering is what our citizens fought against during the civil rights era, and it is now beginning to present itself again. We must recognize the tactics that are being used to limit our representation in government. We have to ensure that redistricting allows for representation of citizens throughout our state whose voices have not been heard in Annapolis or on Capitol Hill,” he continued.

A hearing before a three-judge court has been scheduled for Dec. 20. Judge Roger Titus hopes to have a decision made by Jan. 2012.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO