- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Opponents of Maryland's legislative-redistricting plan made a final pitch to the Court of Appeals yesterday to reject Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan and draw new districts for the fall election of 188 General Assembly members.
Skeptical questioning by some judges gave opponents a ray of hope, and Albert Figinski, the attorney for two state senators, said he thinks the court "is very troubled by what went down."
But Mr. Figinski said there was no way to predict whether the seven appeals judges will order any changes. And Secretary of State John Willis, who helped oversee drafting of the plan, agreed with Mr. Figinski.
"There's no way to tell from the questions which way the court will rule," Mr. Willis said.
There also was no indication from the court when a ruling will be issued.
The proposed districts will be used to elect all 188 members of the House and Senate this year and again in 2006 and 2010.
Opponents argued during the 5-hour hearing that the governor's plan violates a constitutional requirement that districts be compact, and that it ignores county and municipal boundaries and violates federal law requiring that districts be drawn to protect the voting rights of racial minorities.
The plan was defended by Deputy Attorney General Carmen Shepard, who acknowledged it is not perfect, but argued that it does a better job of complying with constitutional and legal requirements than any of the plans offered in the 14 suits challenging the new districts.
"This is a lot harder than it looks," Miss Shepard said.
Mr. Figinski who represented Sens. Lowell Stoltzfus, Somerset County Republican, and Norman Stone, Baltimore County Democrat appealed to the judges to correct the worst flaws in Mr. Glendening's plan.
A plan he presented on behalf of Mr. Stone would be a good starting place, he suggested.
"I urge you not to throw up your hands and say you can't do it. You can," Mr. Figinski said.
With only 28 days left before the deadline for legislative candidates to file for the Democratic and Republican primaries, Miss Shepard reminded the judges that "time is a terrible, constraining problem here."
Yesterday's hearing concerned the recommendation of Robert Karwacki, a retired judge appointed to hear testimony and make a recommendation to the court on whether legislative district lines should be changed.
Judge Karwacki upheld all of the governor's plan except for two senatorial districts on the Eastern Shore, including the lower Shore district now represented by Mr. Stoltzfus.
Most of the questioning by judges dealt with the Eastern Shore and with proposed districts in the Baltimore region.
Opponents argued that the governor's plan shortchanges Baltimore County to protect Democratic senatorial incumbents who live in Baltimore city.
Delegate Joseph Getty, Carroll County Republican, said the new Senate district in Frederick and Washington counties is a textbook example of political gerrymandering.
The new lines were drawn to help two Democratic legislative incumbents while putting six Republican lawmakers in a district with just three seats, Mr. Getty said.
E. Mark Braden, attorney for Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, argued that the plan does not provide equal representation to black voters in Prince George's County.
He also questioned why the governor's plan has so many districts that are not compact and that cross county boundaries.
"The answer to that question is one word: Politics," Mr. Braden said. "This is a plan before you by the incumbents, of the incumbents and for the incumbents."


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