You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Court hears suit against Md.’s new congressional map

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

A federal court heard testimony Tuesday in a lawsuit over whether Maryland's new congressional map illegally dilutes the influence of black voters.

Attorneys for a group of nine voters argued before a three-judge panel that officials in the Democrat-dominated state willfully split up black communities to spread their voters among several districts. They also argued the move deprived the state -- which is 29 percent black -- of a third majority-black district.

The plaintiffs sued the state last month, weeks after the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, approved a new map of the state's eight congressional districts.
"What you have here is essentially white politicians taking advantage of black voters to protect their incumbents," said Jason Torchinsky, an attorney for the nine plaintiffs, who are backed by the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a black activist group.

Lawmakers approved a map in October that would retain the state's two majority-black districts -- represented by Democratic Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and Donna F. Edwards -- and give Democrats a strong chance of unseating Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in Western Maryland's long-conservative 6th District.

Mr. Torchinsky argued at the hearing in Greenbelt that state leaders gerrymandered the map to take out Mr. Bartlett and prevent a black majority in Southern Maryland's 5th District -- represented by Democratic Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer -- in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Torchinsky asked the court to draw a new map that would make Mr. Hoyer's district majority black.

Their plan has been supported by many state Republicans, in part because it would likely remove some Democrats from Mr. Bartlett's district.

Assistant Attorney General Dan Friedman argued on the state's behalf that the new map affords proper minority representation and succeeds in making several districts, including Mr. Bartlett's, more competitive.

As evidence, he noted that leading GOP state lawmakers in three districts -- including two represented by Democrats -- are considering runs for Congress next year.

"The evidence on the ground in each case isn't that this is party gerrymandering," Mr. Friedman said, "but that five of the eight districts have been made more competitive."

The judicial panel, led by 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, was highly skeptical of the notion that party politics did not play a part in the map.

However, the judges cast doubts over whether plaintiffs have the evidence to prove their case, which is that state officials intentionally sought to limit minority influence.

They also pointed out that a court order implementing a third majority-black district could give black voters overrepresentation, potentially opening the state to more lawsuits.

"I don't understand your case to order a third black district when the population is [less than] 30 percent," Judge Niemeyer said.

The judges said they could issue an opinion in coming weeks.

State officials said they hope the panel can decide by Jan. 1 in order to not delay with the state's primary schedule.

Candidates must file by Jan. 11 for the April 3 primary.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • The District of Columbia has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

    D.C. police quietly prepping for change in law on marijuana

  • D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate David Catania, at large independent, said that although he had some concerns with the city's fiscal 2015 budget, namely the 'yoga tax,' he said issues could be addressed in next year's budget discussions. (Associated Press)

    Council overrides mayor’s veto of fiscal 2015 budget

  • 3 killed, 4 wounded Sunday in three D.C. shootings

  • D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, one of seven Democrats trying to unseat the incumbent District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray in next week's primary, campaigns on Capitol Hill neighborhood in Washington, Thursday, March 27, 2014. Loyalists are rallying around the mayor, and few are writing him off. But his troubles have provided an opening for one of his challengers, and D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser appears to be taking advantage. Two polls released a week before the primary showed Bowser in a statistical tie with Gray.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Crime hits close to home for D.C. mayoral candidate

  • Gray

    D.C. Council to vote on Gray’s budget veto