Anne Arundel County political leaders filed a bipartisan suit in Baltimore's federal court yesterday, challenging a congressional redistricting plan they say denies the county a voice on Capitol Hill.
The suit, brought by the Anne Arundel County Bipartisan Citizen's Coalition, asks the court to declare unconstitutional the plan that splits the county among four congressional districts. It asks that the General Assembly be required to pass a new redistricting plan by Dec. 1, or that the court impose a plan by Dec. 15.
The suit, which lists the county Democratic and Republican parties and five county residents as plaintiffs, also seeks to bar state election officials from registering candidates for the March 3 congressional primary until the districts are resolved.
The Maryland legislature passed the redistricting plan Oct. 22 over the objections of Anne Arundel lawmakers. Without a majority in any district, they complained that Anne Arundel voters no longer could elect their own member of Congress -- something they have done since the early 1970s. The lawmakers also complained that the plan splits established neighborhoods with common political and economic interests among as many as three districts.
John R. Greiber, an Annapolis attorney representing the coalition, said state political leaders manipulated the districts to protect several incumbents, including U.S. Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, the House's fourth-ranking Democrat. Part of Mr. Hoyer's Prince George's County district was included in a new minority-dominated seat.
"To create a safe seat for Steny Hoyer, they had to play Monopoly and rearrange the whole playing board," Mr. Greiber said. "Once you do that, you start playing around with the other counties."
He also charged that the plan deliberately increases the number of Democrats in incumbent Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin's 3rd District and the number of Republicans in incumbent Republican Helen Delich Bentley's 2nd District.
Mr. Greiber said he'll argue that state leaders rejected other proposals that would have created more compact districts.