Annapolis, MD – “I’m a little bit outside of the box. I didn’t come through the Democratic party establishment…the hymn book I do follow is one that’s about the concerns of average ordinary working people” a frustrated Representative Donna Edwards (D) Maryland extorted following her nearly hour long questioning at a Joint Hearing of the Annapolis Legislature. The legislative body is trying to tackle the thorny issue of congressional redistricting. Republican and Democrats tried to sort through the myriad of maps. Congresswoman Edwards joined a chorus of optimist who wanted no parts of a map conceived to reconfigure the state’s congressional districts.
The implausible map arrived in my twitter account on Saturday evening which kind of surprised me. It came close to a map drawn by a Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting. Under the leadership of Jeanne Hitchcock, the group held 12 public hearings around the state. I’ve seen nearly 5 different maps of the newly drawn congressional maps of the state. It’s clear with a Democratic majority of the state one of two Republican congress people were going to be shutout in the process. The early idea was to redraw a district involving the 1st Congressional District but that prove untenable. It fell to the 6th Congressional District (Western Maryland) for change.
The 6th District under the new proposal will include all of western Maryland and portions of Montgomery County. The map looks to dilute the strength of pro-Republican voters, known as “cracking.”
The 4th District, which was originally drawn to carve out a minority majority district, will now include not only Prince Georges, and Montgomery Counties will now include parts of Anne Arundel County which it gave up to 6th District.
According to Governor Martin O’Malley, the state’s most recent data shows the growth of population occurred around the Washington suburbs. A sizable chunk occurred in Montgomery County and Prince George’s (with some spill over in Charles and Saint Mary’s Counties).
Future growth shows Frederick County will become a bed room community of Washington (which it kind of already has) is the area that was annexed to the 6th District.
There were a lot of people weighing in on the process. There were those with political ambition and those who used new software to generate models. In the past models resembled erector sets, dominoes, or Lego’s. Pick your favorite childhood metaphors.
It started with a number of emails from various constituents. Hassan Giordano began flooding my email box with questions about the dilution of African-American voters. Chiming in was Doni Glover of BmoreNews.com who also questioned the sincerity of African-American political leadership.
The issue that seems to consume these and others was a dilution of African-American representation in congress. The state has had its issues with providing its minority population with representation. Currently the state is served by two African-Americans, Rep. Edwards (Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties) and the Rep. Elijah Cummings (Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard Counties). The recent census showed there are new growing minorities in Washington suburbs (Latino and Asian populations).
The suggestion these were not factored into the map consider was dismissed by the states chief executive. Any suggestion it would not pass the Voting Rights Act was summarily dismissed “it’s balanced.”
Members of the Republican Party and the newly formed Fannie Lou Hammer PAC under the direction of Carletta Fellows were not impressed by the final map and stage their own press conference.
Also mounting a challenge was Nancy Soeng, President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland Inc. She called “the process troubling.” In her testimony she challenged the politics at play.
Others challenging the legislation include Common Cause.
Here are some of the raw numbers which are in play; the state’s minority population makes up 40% of the state. 29% of the minority population is African-American. Opponents of the governor’s plan suggest there are enough minorities in the state to create another minority majority district.
This idea runs into reality and unfortunate the planners turn to computers to assist. Let me provide that old adage “garbage in garbage out.” Computers can count but they cannot discern.
In anticipation of a challenge, the state has consulted with Attorney General’s office. They have retained an expert through Assistant Attorney General Dan Friedman who will lead its litigation if it doesn't pass section two of the Voting Rights Act.
In a power move Del. Kumar Barve requested a meeting with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake. “Hey we need to talk I’m thinking about running for Comptroller, let’s talk.” Mayor Blake nodded with her traditional wry smile. The mayor is coming off a decisive primary win. She was just one of two of the state’s power brokers (Ike Leggett and Rushern Baker) who were in Annapolis. Some attribute the most recent acquisition of Indy Race Car series in Baltimore as a success. The mayor called the recent death of an Indy driver in Las Vegas “tragic.”
I also wanted to know more about her decision to privatize the city’s recreation centers. “We must get away from the status quo.” The mayor sent out an RFP for community groups and non-profits to consider taking over the nearly all the cities recreation centers. Only 7 groups applied. Hmmm?
Missing from the legislative session is a pair of legislators Sen. Jeanne Forehand and Sen. Ulysses Currie. There is no word of Forehands absence, Currie has been locked in a federal trial. At the trial the defense is starting to weigh-in. Two witnesses suggest the Senator isn’t very bright. Ugh…Currie was the chair Budget and Taxation Committee.