Redrawing the lines

October 29, 1991

In Baltimore County, redrawing the lines for state legislative districts is far more than a partisan battle. It is, at its core, a matter of whether the county's growing African American population will be equitably represented in Annapolis. The plan approved by the county's Senate and House delegations is, however, little more than tokenism: It simply takes a block of black voters out of the 11th District and attaches that "sub-district" to the 10th.

Since all the 11th District delegates are Democrats, and all those in the 10th are Republicans, the brouhaha over partisanship which has come in its wake is understandable. But it misses the point: While the configuration would almost certainly result in one black delegate from the new 10th, the plan also dilutes minority voting strength in the 11th, now 40 percent black, virtually ensuring not more than one black representative would go to Annapolis, and that there would not be a large enough black constituency in the reconfigured 11th to elect an African American senator. The inequity is underscored by a national NAACP analysis showing the Liberty Road area of the 11th District is capable of electing two blacks to the statehouse. Additionally, if demographic trends hold, the current 11th could be capable of electing an African American senator as well before the next Census.

Both the local NAACP and the county's Coalition of Concerned African American Organizations have asked the governor's redistricting committee to reject the plan recommended by the county's delegations, and have submitted alternatives which would create the possibility of two minority districts. The coalition's plan simply divides the 11th into three subdistricts: 11A would be 69 percent black, 29 percent white; 11B would be 40 percent black, 56 percent white, and 11C would be almost 89 percent white and nearly 10 percent black. Demographics and political fairness argue strongly for adopting this kind of plan; it is incumbent on the redistricting committee to respond.

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