Little noticed in the legislative muddle that has engulfed Annapolis is a simmering controversy in Baltimore County over redistricting. Demographics has radically altered the profile of the county's 11th District, which is now 40 percent black but has virtually no real chance of electing a black representative. The new Census statistics, and the Voting Rights Act, point to the need to create a majority black district. But the battle is getting bloody.
It boils down to this: Every state legislative district now elects three delegates and one senator. So the creation of a single-member subdistrict -- within any existing district -- will inevitably leave three incumbents fighting for the two remaining seats. State Sen. Paula Hollinger, who represents the 11th -- all of whose delegates are Democrats -- has managed to convince the county's House delegation to support a plan that tacks a new, majority black subdivision onto the 10th district -- whose delegates are all Republicans. Partisan wrangling aside, the net effect of Hollinger's plan is insidious. By moving a chunk of the African-American community out of the 11th district, black voting power would be diluted -- leaving the 11th with a constituency that is only 23 percent black and foreclosing on the possibility that the growing black political power in the 11th might, eventually, result in the election of an African-American state senator from the district.
The House contingent made the wrong decision by voting for Hollinger's plan. The Senate delegation and the full legislature should support keeping the new subdivision in the 11th, to assure the political equity to which the county's African-American community is entitled.