Glendening's plan to redraw districts is assailed in court

Some communities split, others joined illogically, foes say

April 26, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Critics of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's legislative redistricting plan unleashed their best arguments in court yesterday, maintaining that communities from tiny Hampstead in Carroll County to Dundalk and College Park have been sliced and squeezed to punish Republicans and elect more Democrats.

During a daylong hearing at the Court of Appeals in Annapolis, many of the local and state officials who have sued to change the maps told a special master why they were unhappy with the governor's plan and how they propose altering it.

"There is an outrage in my district," said Baltimore County Council Chairman John A. Olszewski Sr. of Dundalk, a working-class community that has been divided three ways, with the careers of at least three veteran lawmakers imperiled. "People don't understand why Dundalk was eliminated."

Yesterday's testimony focused heavily on whether the new districts are compact enough and keep similar communities together sufficiently to meet requirements of the Maryland Constitution.

During a preliminary hearing this month, several Court of Appeals judges questioned the odd shapes of some districts. The judges were concerned enough that they said the state, not the complainants, must prove that the districts are compact and cohesive.

The state attorney general's office will present its defense of the proposal today.

Dundalk politicians noted that two precincts in Edgemere -- home to Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. -- have been included in an Anne Arundel-based district that is four miles across the Patapsco River.

"It's an absolute injustice to Baltimore County," Stone said, who could face the end of a 36-year career if the lines are maintained. He said he couldn't count "on my thumbs" the number of times he has shared legislative issues with Anne Arundel.

Residents and lawmakers from Montgomery, Caroline and Carroll counties also argued that their areas have been divided without regard for natural allegiances and boundaries.

"No question about it, there is a packing of the minority party" into a small number of districts to aid the election of Democrats, said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Carroll Republican.

Glendening oversaw the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state's 47 Senate districts, containing 141 delegate seats, to comply with population changes measured by the 2000 Census.

The map removes Senate districts from Baltimore and Baltimore County, adding them to Montgomery and Prince George's in suburban Washington, which grew the most.

The governor and his allies argue that the map meets legal requirements, including those that districts be within 5 percent of their ideal population and that minorities have a fair chance at getting elected where possible.

Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry is challenging the plan, saying the state should have done more to ensure minority representation. He said his county should have five districts in which minorities make up a majority of the population, not four.

Curry said he has spent more than $100,000 in campaign funds for statistical analyses to prove his claim.

After the hearing concludes today, the special master, retired Court of Appeals Judge Robert L. Karwacki, will have 30 days to present his findings to the Court of Appeals. The court will be able to accept his recommendations or alter them.

The final product will form the basis for the legislative elections this fall.

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