Black leaders in Baltimore County are rejecting a plan to create a black-majority legislative sub-district along the Liberty Road corridor, instead putting forward a plan to create two such districts.
Col. James R. Pennington, president of the county chapter of the NAACP, said his group would present its plan in Annapolis today for two black sub-districts along Liberty Road, west of the city line.
Since the last redistricting in 1980, the black population has increased to about 40 percent of the total population of the Liberty Road corridor , the highest concentration of blacks in the county.
Noting that the county delegation to the General Assembly has no black members, Pennington said at a news conference in Catonsville yesterday that "African-Americans are not being represented as they should."
Legislative districts are rearranged every 10 years to account for shifts in population based on the U.S. Census.
Under a plan tentatively approved by county delegates, blacks along Liberty Road west into Woodlawn would have an overwhelming majority in a single-member sub-district. They would be shifted from what is now the 11th District to the 10th, which is mostly white and now represented by three Republican delegates and a Democratic senator.
The NAACP, on the other hand, proposes breaking up the 11th into three sub-districts with a delegate representing each.
The NAACP plan, supported in principle by other black organizations as well, would create one sub-district from parts of Woodlawn, Woodmoor and Lochearn, in which blacks would make up 59 percent of the voters. In a second sub-district, extending west along Liberty Road to Randallstown, black voters would constitute 52 percent. The remaining sub-district centering around Pikesville would be mostly white.
The NAACP believes this plan would also give black voters in the area a better shot at electing a state senator than if they were switched to the 10th District.
Herbert H. Lindsey, another county NAACP official, accused the incumbents of the 11th of merely trying to protect their turf in their support of a sub-district in the 10th for blacks.
"Keep in mind the three incumbent delegates and senator are Jewish, and what they're doing is trying to protect their base at the sacrifice of African-Americans," Lindsey said.
One of those delegates, Theodore Levin, D-11th, said, "I'm happy with the way things are" and lamented that redistricting has led the two main cultural groups in the district, blacks and Jews, into "cutting each other up."
Levin, who has represented the 11th since 1975, doubted the need for either redistricting plan. The existence of a concentrated minority population in an area does not automatically call for a racial remedy in redistricting under the federal Voting Rights Act, he said, adding that the area would have to show a history of blacks losing elections to opponents campaigning on racial issues.
Levin also feared that if the 11th was divided into three sub-districts for racial reasons, the same analysis could apply to all districts across the state, possibly breaking up more district delegations into single-member sub-districts. Being represented by a single delegate, instead of by three from an entire district, can diminish voters' clout, Levin said.
He accused the NAACP of a power grab. "He just looks for power, that's the nature of Col. Pennington," Levin said.
At his news conference, Pennington was confident that the NAACP proposal met the criteria of the Voting Rights Act.
"We feel strongly that something will be accepted," Pennington said. "We don't really expect we'll have to sue."