Council Wastes Little Time Revising Redistricting Plan

December 18, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

The Annapolis Redistricting Committee barely had time to place its maps in the record Monday night when the City Council members began apologizing for the revisions they plan to make.

John Prehn, the Ward 1 Republican appointed by Democratic Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins to head the citizen's redistricting committee, presented the maps that his committee drew over the past seven months.

"Party politics did not surface and was not used as one of the criteria in drawing the new boundaries," Prehn said, explaining the 13-member committee's effort.

Prehn said "95 percent" of the committee's efforts went into trying to find ways to improve minority representation in the city. The new proposal boosts the black majorities in wards 3 and 5, but ends up diminishing the black population in the so-called "competitive" district, Ward 6, from 45 percent to 37 percent.

Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, praised Prehn's plan for its fairness but immediately told the council that he plans to amend it andhas laid the groundwork for a civil lawsuit, challenging the proposal under provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act.

"It's my hopethat as we go through the process of a public hearing we will find away to meet the letter and spirit of the Voting Rights Act," Snowdensaid yesterday. "Failure to do so will move us from negotiation to litigation."

Since Annapolis' population is 33 percent black, Snowden claims that the Voting Rights Act of 1968 would require two majority black wards and one "competitive district" with a black populationof at least 40 percent. Annapolis has eight council districts.

Prehn has said the committee tried but could not find a way to keep Ward 6 racially competitive and contiguous.

But even as Prehn spoke, Michael T. Brown, president of the city's Democratic Central Committee, was in the back of the council chambers showing off a new map thatwould increase Ward 6's black population to 49 percent.

City Democrats lost their majority on the council when Brown, who is black, lost the Ward 6 race by four votes to Republican Wayne Turner in 1989.

The maps will be on file in the city Planning and Zoning Offices until Jan. 27, the date a public hearing is scheduled.

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