(BALTIMORE - November 12, 2011) - Nine Maryland citizens filed a joint lawsuit on Thursday in federal court charging the state of Maryland, i.e. the Democratic led General Assembly, with multiple civil rights violations based on the recent congressional redistricting efforts headed by Governor Martin O’Malley. The plaintiffs joined forces with an African American voting rights organization, which is supported morally and financially by none other than the state’s Republican Party – and the two congressional GOP members of Maryland.
No, the group is not the usual suspect NAACP, its Legal Defense or Education Fund, nor is it the normal civil rights groups such as the ACLU or the SCLC - who each reportedly agreed to join the lawsuit initially, yet later backed out. The group is known as the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC - Political Action Committee – which was formed earlier this year in Prince George’s County solely focused on this year’s congressional redistricting process. Though officially prohibited from being a part of the lawsuit themselves, the PAC has spearheaded this lawsuit, including gathering the needed plaintiffs who all reside within the three congressional districts, which claims that these three districts should have been adequately represented by an African American majority.
One of those plaintiffs are none other than one of Baltimore’s own black-based media moguls, Donald ‘Doni’ Glover, owner of Bmorenews; who, when contacted for a comment regarding this lawsuit, was not shy in calling out those who failed to step up to the plate and represent the interests of their African American constituency. “They are raping my people, and I will not stand for it,” said an irate Glover, who has consistently covered issues vital to the African American community through his media outlet. “To see the female black elected officials having to step up and lead the charge against this unfair map makes me proud to stand behind their efforts!” However, Glover does not seem to be alone in his outrage for how this once-a-decade process was handled – especially when it comes to the denigration of the black voter base.
State Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney also expressed his discontent for such a process stating that the GOP was “proud to work with African American voters who have been disenfranchised.” In fact, it was the state’s conservative party that introduced the Fannie Lou Hamer drawn map during the 2011 ‘Special Session’ that dealt with this issue last month. Senator E.J. Pipkin, along with Delegate Michal Hough, co-sponsored legislation that would be the alternative to the one submitted by the Governor and his Redistricting Panel, who they contend offered up an illegal map based more on the politics of democratic state dominance rather than addressing the obvious influx of minority-based voters throughout the state. “The redistricting process is suppose to see elected officials group residents by communities of interest, as individuals and minorities,” explained lead plaintiff Patricia Fletcher. “Communities of interest are not defined by the political party you belong to or whether or not you can get a Democrat, Republican or Independent elected!”
The lawsuit points out four broad areas of how the map, passed by a super-majority of the Maryland General Assembly, violates sections of the Voting Rights Act, while disenfranchising African American voters statewide.
Argument #1: A third African American majority-minority voting district should have been created, based in the 5th congressional district joining the already black populated 4th and 7th districts. [This is based on the entire increase in Maryland population over the past 10-years has been that of minorities.]
Argument #2:Congressional Districts 4 & 7 should have greater African American voting strength. [The current map diluted the strength of the 4th by taking parts of Montgomery County out of its district and centralizing the district in PG County, while the 7th district should have more of a Baltimore City centrist theme.]
Argument #3:Political gerrymandering was believed to have taken place in Congressional Districts 2 & 3. [These two districts are represented by Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes and both include portions of Baltimore County.]
Argument #4:The equal protection clause was violated in the in Montgomery County. [The argument made by taking Donna Edward’s 4th district out of Mo.Co.]
The lawsuit, which is estimated to cost at least $250,000 or more, is being funded largely in part by the two Maryland Republican congressional members, Roscoe Bartlett (R-6) and Andy Harris (R-1), with both allocating funds funneled through a non-profit known as the Legacy Foundation of Iowa. The nine plaintiffs will be represented by the Washington, D.C. based law firm Holtzman Vogel LPPC, as Maryland attorney James P. Mayes assisted in launching the lawsuit in federal court yesterday. The plaintiffs, each residing from one of three congressional districts being targeted in the lawsuit – the 4th, 5th and the 7th – were all listed in the complaint; their names are as follows: Patricia Fletcher (lead plaintiff), Janis Hagey, Mykel Harris, Trevelyn Otts and Julia Williams of Prince George’s County; Winnie M. Campbell and Donald Glover of Baltimore City; Robina Spruill of Charles County and Michael Thompson of Montgomery County.
Also being discussed by the group is the state’s decision to exclude a little over 1,300 prisoners from around the state, based on the fact that their last known address was not obtainable; thereby eliminating these individuals from the census data, which is the vital information used during any redistricting process. This oversight - which saw over 500 of these individuals being that of African American descent, with even more being minorities in general – was largely attributed to the 2010 law passed by the General Assembly, known as the ‘No Representation without Population Act’. This bill (SB400/HB496), was sponsored and spearheaded by Baltimore City State Senator Catherine Pugh, the chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, which required the state to exclude incarcerated individuals from the census count who were not state residents before their current period of incarceration, and include those who were residents of the state prior to their arrest and subsequent incarceration - basing their addresses on their last known address, not the address of the prison facility where they were located during the census count. However, the unintended consequence of this law now sees that if the person did not list a last known address, they were completely excluded from the process – thereby making them, in essence, a ‘legal ghost’.
The reason behind this lawsuit is based on the passing of the Governor’s map during the 2011 ‘Special Session’, in which groups such as the Fannie Lou Hamer PAC and IMPAC, the Independent Movement Political Action Committee, stood in opposition of a map that put a political party before the will of the people? As reported on first, and most extensively, by this Examiner, the political will of Democrats, especially that of the black caucus, was not evident during this session, as they were not willing to stand up in opposition to the will of Governor O’Malley and SB1; especially when they have to now focus on the legislative redistricting process that directly effects their political power. However, there were a handful of folks who did stand up for the will of the people, especially that of the minority electorate who are the largest growing faction amongst the Democratic Party, as well as the overall voting population of Maryland. Those persons were: Prince George’s County Delegates Aisha Braveboy (D-25) and Tiffany Alston (D-24), along with PG County Senator C. Anthony Muse (D-26); they were joined by Montgomery County Delegates Luiz Simmons (D-17), Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) and Alfred Carr Jr. (D-18) – as well as every single Republican in both chambers! To view the lawsuit in its entirety, you can click on this link.