- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Delegate Joseph Getty came to complain about how the new state legislative redistricting plan chops up Western Maryland counties into too many districts.

Gabriele Gandal was unhappy that her Montgomery County neighborhood had been split right down the middle into two senatorial districts.

State Republican Chairman Michael Steele plans to take a wider approach, arguing that the entire plan drafted by Gov. Parris N. Glendening is flawed because it violates several constitutional guidelines, including a requirement that the voting rights of minorities be protected.

Mr. Getty and Miss Gandal were among the witnesses testifying against the governor's plan at a hearing yesterday before retired judge Robert Karwacki. Mr. Steele will get in his shots today when the two-day hearing concludes.

The 14 lawsuits filed challenging the new legislative districts run the gamut from requests that communities be made whole to the Republican Party's claim that the entire state plan is fatally flawed.

The Court of Appeals, which will make the final decision, appointed Mr. Karwacki as a special master to hear testimony and sort through the sometimes competing claims made by opponents.

Mr. Karwacki has until May 24 to submit a report with recommendations on what, if any, changes should be made in the districts that will be used to elect Maryland's 47 senators and 141 House of Delegates members for the next three elections.

Opponents argue that the districts are not compact and contiguous, that counties and communities are split for political reasons, and that minority voters are not guaranteed a chance to make their voices heard in state government.

Eastern Shore districts were the focus of two of the lawsuits argued yesterday.

Albert Figinski, attorney for Republican State Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus, said the governor's plan splits the lower Eastern Shore, resulting in a district that begins in Somerset County and extends through Wicomico, Dorchester, Talbot and Caroline counties.

"Nowhere else in the state are five counties together" in one Senate district, Mr. Figinski said. "It separates Somerset County from the rest of the lower Eastern Shore."

A lawsuit filed by Caroline County claims the county should not have been split into two districts. It is the only county in Maryland that does not have a resident member of the General Assembly and is likely to remain so if the governor's plan takes effect.

Mr. Getty, Carroll County Republican, attacked the way districts in the governor's plan cross county lines in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties.

"The priority is for those counties to receive a district entirely within their boundaries," he said.

Mr. Getty said Senate District 3, located primarily in Frederick County, has a protrusion extending into Washington County and up toward Hagerstown that "looks like you are raising your arm and flexing your muscle."

Mr. Figinski also attacked districts in southeastern Baltimore County on behalf of Sen. Norman Stone and Delegates John Arnick and Daniel Minnick, three Democrats whose district was eliminated under the governor's plan.

Baltimore County has been divided into 12 different Senate districts, only three entirely within the county, Mr. Figinski said.

"That is wrong," he said.

Attorneys for the state will get their chance to defend the plan today.

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