Because amendments to the Voting Rights Act and court rulings suggest that states that can create new congressional districts with a majority of minority voters should do so, there is pressure in Maryland and elsewhere to search for ways to accomplish it. Here it would be the Fifth District, largely Prince George's County, that would be recontoured to elect a black candidate. In its present boundaries, the Fifth is about 44 percent black.
The Maryland Republican Party has produced a redistricting map in which the Fifth would be 56 percent black. This is about as "black" as the district could be, if the party's computer analysis of contiguous precincts in other districts is correct. Republicans want a black district because they believe that by "packing" blacks, who tend to bloc-vote for Democratic congressional candidates, into a single district, they increase the chance of electing Republican candidates next door. Politics is politics. We understand this. We do not understand the reported decision of some of Maryland's Democratic Party leaders to play the same game.
It is not in the best interest of traditional Democrats -- black or white -- to trade two white Democratic representatives for one black Democrat and one white Republican. For example, the Republican map would create a black Fifth District in part by reducing blacks in the Fourth from 24 percent to 15 percent. That could lead to replacing Rep. Tom McMillen, who voted for the Democratic civil rights bill last Wednesday, with a Republican who would vote against such a measure.