- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

BALTIMORE A redistricting plan that would eliminate a majority-black district in the city shows state officials take black voters for granted, delegates from the district said yesterday.
The state delegates and City Council member Keiffer Mitchell gathered outside City Hall to protest the proposal by the Governor's Advisory Committee for Redistricting, over which they are threatening to sue.
Under the proposal, Prince George's County would gain a majority-black district, and majority-black Baltimore would lose one. The proposal, made public last month, calls for the elimination of the 44th District, from which one senator and three delegates are currently elected.
The decision to eliminate the district in Baltimore, which has been suffering from a declining population for years, is part of the state's once-a-decade redistricting based on U.S. Census Bureau figures.
Delegate Verna L. Jones, a Democrat who represents the 44th District, said census numbers should not be used to determine political representation, noting that those who left the city are not black.
"This is about principles," said Miss Jones.
Mr. Mitchell's cousin, state Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV, would be in a new district along with state Sen. George Della under the plan. The Mitchells are black. Mr. Della is white.
The plan proposed Monday also would take three black delegates in Clarence Mitchell's current district and put them into a subdistrict that will elect only one House member.
The City Council member said if the plan takes effect, residents will see "the clock turn back to weaken the African-American influence in Baltimore."
Meetings among delegates, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will be scheduled this week to further discuss retaining the district, Miss Jones said.
Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill said the Democratic governor has been talking to people about district lines all along and will have a hearing tomorrow before deciding whether to make changes in the advisory commission's recommendation.
"It's unfortunate that the population numbers in Baltimore city are down, and the numbers set the parameters for what had to happen," Mr. Morrill said.
Earlier this month, black city delegates and the City Council unanimously agreed to sue if they found the redistricting plan unacceptable.
Delegate Howard Rawlings, Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has said an attorney from the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would litigate the case under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The city has five entire districts and five others include some city neighborhoods. The city's House delegation has endorsed a plan that would preserve the districts of five black senators and force two white senators, Mr. Della and Perry Sfikas, to run against each other.
The advisory commission's plan would put Clarence Mitchell and Mr. Della in a district that has a small black majority.
By law, Mr. Glendening must submit a plan next month outlining districts for all 188 General Assembly members. It will become law unless the legislature passes its own redistricting plan.

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