- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

ANNAPOLIS No more than two Maryland legislative districts would change under recommendations made to the state's highest court yesterday.
The report, issued to guide the Court of Appeals in considering 14 lawsuits challenging Gov. Parris N. Glendening's redistricting plan, called for restoring middle and lower Eastern Shore districts to boundaries set in 1992.
But the report rejected claims that the plan determined by the state's Democratic majority split concentrations of minority voters across districts, reducing the chances of electing minority legislators.
Former Judge Robert Karwacki, appointed as special master to oversee the case, said plaintiffs failed to show that minority voters live in geographically compact communities and that minority and white voters cast ballots in polarized blocs.
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, a Democrat who is black, and Maryland Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, who is also black, separately argued that the Glendening plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Mr. Steele said Mr. Karwacki's finding of no partisan gerrymandering was "disingenuous."
A Glendening spokeswoman said the administration was confident that the plan was legal.
"[Mr. Karwacki] did a thorough job and validated what we thought all along," said Glendening spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. "Hopefully, the court will reach the same conclusion."
The Court of Appeals decision could affect ballots in the primary election Sept. 10. The filing deadline for candidates running for Maryland House and Senate seats has been moved from July 1 to July 8 to accommodate delays.
Mr. Steele welcomed the recommendation to preserve the Eastern Shore districts, which likely will preserve the seats of two Republican senators, but he said it was a token effort to sidestep changes that ought to be made in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Dundalk. Changes in those districts would have a "domino effect" on the rest of the governor's plan because those districts are adjacent to many others, he said.
Mrs. Guillory said the governor will propose several options for redrawing the Eastern Shore districts.
Before the report's release yesterday, Republicans accused four key Democratic lawmakers of trying to influence the court's decision on the redistricting lawsuits.
Republicans released a memo from the Court of Appeals clerk that revealed the four legislators recently contacted three judges on the court.
They said that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a lawyer, should have known better than to contact Court of Appeals Judges Alan M. Wilner and Glenn T. Harrell Jr.
Mr. Miller said his conversations with Judges Wilner and Harrell were critical of their earlier decision to move the burden from the plaintiffs to the governor so that the governor would have to show that his plan was not invalid. He said he told them such action was "unprecedented ridiculous and wrong."
"You don't talk to a judge about a pending order. I didn't say anything about anything pending," said Mr. Miller.
Sens. Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County, who called Judge Irma Raker, and Ulysses Currie of Prince George's, who contacted Chief Judge Robert Bell, said they only asked about the process and did not attempt to influence anyone.
Delegate Ruth M. Kirk, Baltimore Democrat, also contacted Judge Bell. She sent him a letter, which the judge returned to her after he recognized its nature, according to the clerk's memo.
Mr. Steele said the court's memo suggests judges did not view the contacts as innocent and he challenged Mr. Miller's claim that he did not talk with judges about a pending matter.
"Then why do I have a notice from the court saying they cut off contact because it was inappropriate? Clearly, someone thought it was about a matter before them," Mr. Steele said. "This is Mike Miller's world. He does what he wants with impunity."
In a related development, Sen. Robert R. Neall, Anne Arundel County Democrat, confirmed that he sent a letter to Mr. Karwacki, dated May 3, asking him to return a Crofton precinct with 2,900 residents from a new, mostly Prince George's district back to the Anne Arundel district he represents.
Mr. Neall said he didn't care whether the request was appropriate, because he believes it to be in the best interest of that precinct's residents to be with other Anne Arundel voters.
And he said the change would not help him get re-elected if he runs again, because the precinct has more Republicans than Democrats.
The recommendations held hope of relief for one plaintiff Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, lower Eastern Shore Republican, who faces moving out of his new house to stay in a redrawn district that is more than 120 miles long.
"It just bears out that [the Glendening] map was unconstitutional and that Somerset County should not be treated like a stepchild or orphan," Mr. Stoltzfus said.


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