Foes of redistricting plan vow to take fight to court

Lawmakers lead rally outside State House

February 13, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Opponents of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's legislative redistricting plan vowed during a rally outside the State House yesterday to take their fight to Maryland's courts.

"This will be decided, if not in hallways here, then in the courtroom down the street," said state Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, as he pointed in the direction of Maryland's Court of Appeals. "There's no doubt it will go to the courtroom."

The legislative redistricting plan -- required once a decade to reflect the latest national census data on population changes -- shifts two state Senate districts from the Baltimore region to the fast-growing Washington suburbs. The plan is to become law Feb. 23 unless the General Assembly votes to make changes -- a highly unlikely prospect.

Stone and Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a Baltimore Democrat, organized more than 100 residents from their Dundalk and Baltimore communities to travel to Annapolis for the protest.

Joining them were Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Alabama state Sen. Charles Steele Jr.; former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell III; House Republican leaders; and at least a dozen other Democratic lawmakers.

"This is about fairness and justice," King told the crowd. He said new legislative districts are supposed to be drawn to ensure that communities are well-represented, and "it appears that there are some who have a different agenda. We need to say we cannot accept that."

Stone and Mitchell have been the two most vocal Democrats opposing Glendening's redistricting plan. Stone's eastern Baltimore County district would be erased and split among four other districts, and Mitchell's district would be combined with the district of Sen. George W. Della Jr., another city Democrat.

Mitchell, Stone, Della and other legislators whose districts have been significantly altered say they are paying the price for disagreeing with Glendening. "This brings about punishment for those representatives who voted the way their constituents wanted them to," Della said.

Mitchell introduced an attorney from Prince George's County, Jimmy A. Bell, who will represent him and others in challenging the redistricting map. "We have folks who want to be greedy, not just with resources but with the allocation of representation," Mitchell said.

The opponents noted several legal objections, including splitting long-established communities and linking disparate neighborhoods. Republicans say the plan unfairly dilutes the influence of Republican voters.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a member of the five-member redistricting panel that advised the governor, said he expected the new map to be challenged in court.

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