- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — A black activist group said Thursday that it will sue the state if Maryland lawmakers approve a new legislative map submitted this week by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a Baltimore-based group that lost a lawsuit last month contesting the state’s congressional map, said it will file another suit if changes aren’t made to the governor’s map for the state legislature, which the group says dilutes black voter influence and provides too few majority-black districts.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, submitted a map Wednesday that is substantially like one proposed last month by his redistricting committee.

The General Assembly will consider the governor’s map, which would go into effect automatically if lawmakers choose not to amend it by the session’s 45th day.

“Once the bill becomes law, we will be working with any number of groups to take it to state court,” said Fannie Lou Hamer PAC spokesman Radamase Cabrera. “Clearly, the governor does not know how to have dialogue with the African-American community about sharing power.”

Last month, the group joined many black lawmakers in criticizing a map recommended by the governor’s appointed redistricting panel, which would have redrawn the state’s 47 state Senate districts to allow majority-black Baltimore to keep its five senatorial districts despite its declining population.

The map also would have boosted the number of majority-black districts from 10 to 12.

Critics said the map forced Baltimore to share a district with Baltimore County and contended that the map violated state and federal laws by unnecessarily splitting up some black communities for Democrats’ political gain.

As an alternative, they called for a revised plan that included 14 majority-black districts — a total proportionate to the 28 percent of voting-age Marylanders who are black.

Mr. O’Malley’s map reunited some communities and made changes in northern Baltimore County, but it did not add more black districts, prompting disapproval from some black lawmakers.

Delegate Aisha N. Braveboy, Prince George’s Democrat, said the map failed to answer her concerns and, in fact, reduces black presence in some districts represented by white Democrats.

“It is absolutely not acceptable,” she said. “I think a number of groups will sue the state if it’s passed in its current form.”

Mr. Cabrera said the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC plans to argue in court that the governor’s map violates the federal Voting Rights Act by deliberately stifling black influence, as well as Maryland laws that discourage excessive boundary crossings and shared districts between counties.

The group is still trying to raise money to appeal the decision on the congressional map. The suit was backed financially by conservative groups, but Mr. Cabrera said he expects a state-level appeal to be more affordable.

In 2002, the Maryland Court of Appeals threw out an assembly-approved map, in part because of what it deemed were an excessive number of districts shared by Baltimore and surrounding Baltimore County.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Thursday that Mr. O’Malley’s map satisfies all legal requirements, properly accounts for black population growth and reduces the state’s total boundary crossings to 13, from the 14 crossings in the 2002 court-ordered map.

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