- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Two prominent black state lawmakers filed suit yesterday to challenge Gov. Parris N. Glendening's redistricting plan, which they claim shortchanges minority voters.
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry filed suit, saying the plan was intentionally written to deny minority voters "an equal opportunity to participate in the political process."
The suit asks the Maryland Court of Appeals both to rule that the plan drafted by Mr. Glendening is unconstitutional and to implement a new plan.
Sen. Clarence B. Mitchell IV, Baltimore Democrat, also filed suit, saying the plan is unconstitutional and unfair to many groups.
The Democratic governor's proposal became law Friday when the General Assembly did not pass a plan of its own for the primary and general elections of 188 senators and delegates this fall.
About 28 percent of the Maryland population is black, but under the plan, only 21 percent of Senate members and 23 percent of House members would be elected from districts that have a black majority, Mr. Curry said.
The plan also does not have any majority Hispanic or Asian districts, even though each group makes up about 4 percent of the population.
Mr. Curry's suit claims Mr. Glendening's plan violates federal and state constitutional requirements as well as the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The suit asks the Court of Appeals to create new districts in accordance with plans that will be submitted later.
Several lawsuits are expected to be filed against the new legislative districts, but the governor and legislative leaders who help develop the plan say it will withstand legal scrutiny.
"We are very confident that this meets the numerous constitutional tests," Mike Morrill, Mr. Glendening's communications director, said when the law took effect last week.
He said legal challenges are "the standard fate of any redistricting plan submitted anywhere in the country these days."
Mr. Morrill added, "You expect them, you prepare for them and you make your decisions knowing they are going to happen."
With the primary election coming up in September, the attorney general's office has asked the Court of Appeals to set up an expedited schedule to handle lawsuits filed with the state court.
Suits filed in federal court are heard by a panel of two district court judges and one appellate judge. Appeals of their rulings can then be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.


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