Black Voters, Baltimore County NAACP, League of Women Voters Baltimore County, and Common Cause Sue to Defend Voting Rights in Redistricting

MEDIA CONTACT: Meredith Curtis Goode, [email protected], 443-310-9946

Danielle Dyer, NAACP, [email protected]

Katie Scally, [email protected], 408-205-1257

LaQuita Howard, [email protected], o 202-843-0573, c 832-477-8370

BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD – Today, a group of Baltimore County voters joined with the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, and Common Cause - Maryland in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the racially discriminatory and unlawful redistricting plan approved by the Baltimore County Council Monday evening. Despite a massive outcry from local voters and many options to create a fair plan offered by civil rights groups, the County Council voted for a plan that violates the racial fairness commands of the Voting Rights Act, which are meant to protect against diluting the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other Voters of Color, as well as BIPOC candidates. Black voters challenging the illegal redistricting plan are Charles Sydnor, Anthony Fugett, Dana Vickers Shelley, Danita Tolson, Sharon Blake, Gerald Morrison, and Niesha McCoy.

“Yesterday evening, the Baltimore County Council adopted Bill 103-21, Revision of Councilmanic Districts. The Council's defiant action violates the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and The Voting Rights Act, the Federal statute designed to enforce the 15th Amendment,” said Dr. Danita Tolson, President of the Baltimore County NAACP. “By adopting this illegal legislation, the Baltimore County Council joins the ranks of infamous state and local politicians throughout the country who are adopting redistricting legislation designed specifically to solidify their incumbency and disenfranchise African American and other minority voters. It is abundantly clear that the Baltimore County Council's adopted redistricting legislation will result in continued dilution of African American and minority voting strength. Today, the Baltimore County NAACP along with other like’minded individuals and organizations have no choice but to seek redress in Federal court to stop such action.”

Census data shows that over the last two decades, racial diversity in Baltimore County has increased substantially, with Black, Latinx, and Asian populations each growing significantly. Now, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) residents make up 47 percent of the County’s population, up from 25 percent in 2000 and 35 percent in 2010.  Despite this population growth, the redistricting plan engages in racial gerrymandering to creates six majority white districts.  While Black people constitute 30 percent of the voting-age population of Baltimore County, under the County Council’s plan they will only have a fair opportunity to elect representatives of their choice in just one of seven County Council districts. Conversely, while non-Latinx white people constitute 55 percent of the voting-age population of the County, they will control six of the seven County Council districts. The 2021 redistricting plan engages in racial gerrymandering by packing excessively high numbers of Black voters into its one majority-Black district, while also dividing a politically-cohesive Black communities into other Council districts, which illegally dilutes the voting influence of all Black voters.

“Despite the growing number of People of Color in our community, the Baltimore County Council drew racially gerrymandered maps,” said Ericka McDonaldLeague of Women Voters of Baltimore County co-president. “They ignored census data and violated theVoting Rights Act. The League will push for these maps to be redrawn to protect all voices in Baltimore County – not the political interest of the council.”

Plaintiffs seek a declaration from the federal court that the redistricting plan violates the Voting Rights Act, an injunction prohibiting Baltimore County from holding elections under this unlawful system, and an order mandating a redistricting plan for the election of members of the County Council and Board of Education that comports with the Voting Rights Act, as well as with all other relevant constitutional and statutory requirements.

“Throughout this year’s redistricting process, we and residents across Baltimore County called on Council members to follow the law and put the people above politics,” said Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause – Maryland. “Instead, they chose to ignore the law at the expense of free and fair elections. The county’s voting districts don’t belong to politicians, they belong to the people. The people, specifically Black voters, have a right to have a voice in choosing their representatives and should not have to live a decade under an illegal map.”

“I take no pleasure in having to sue my County government,” said Plaintiff Charles E. Sydnor III, a voter in Baltimore County and Maryland State Senator representing District 44. “I have no doubt that its act will have an adverse effect on this entire County for years to come. It pains me that in 2021 we still find ourselves fighting against tactics meant to dilute voices in the political arena. It pains me that today we must sue for something as fundamental and basic as our full right to equally participate in the local governance of our communities.”

“Baltimore Council members have voted for a redistricting plan that is racially discriminatory,” said Plaintiff Dana Vickers Shelley, a voter in Baltimore County and Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland. “Despite being in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, they remain determined to protect their own self interests — their place and positions — above the rights of thousands of Black voters in the County who deserve fair representation. However comfortable Council members might feel about passing an illegal plan, the Voting Rights Act still exists and Black voters are determined to defend it and our right to have elected officials who represent us and our communities.”

“I served as President of the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP in 2001 when we challenged the redistricting map,” said Plaintiff Anthony Fugett, a voter in Baltimore County. “The County Council listened to our request and created what is today the 4th District. Now in 2021 the current Council decided not to listen to some of its citizens who requested a map that represented the racial makeup of the County. Instead, they made their reelection the priority for the map. It is a sad day for Baltimore County when a citizen has to take the county you live in to Federal court to do their job.”

“Once again the politicians have decided what is best for the people who voted them into office,” said Plaintiff Gerald Morrison, a voter in Baltimore County. “I don't understand this. They have got to realize that we are the ones who put them in the office to do what we like to have done. The majority of the people did not want the redistricting map that the Baltimore County Council put forth. The majority of the people also felt that there could be a way that we could have two majority black districts and everything would be fine. The NAACP along with the ACLU have proven that it could be done. However, Baltimore County Council decided to go along with the map that everybody else was against."

"As a resident of the 4th District in Baltimore County, it is disgraceful that the Baltimore County Council doesn't care about its minority residents,” said Plaintiff Niesha McCoy, a voter in Baltimore County. “By approving this redistricting map, they knowingly violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act."

The civil rights groups worked with an experienced emographer to analyze census data for Baltimore County, and proposed several alternative redistricting plans that fulfill the purpose of the Voting Rights Act by expanding election opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color voters relative to their increasing share of the population.     

The County Council plan’s exclusion of BIPOC voters from electoral opportunities perpetuates a long history of race discrimination in Baltimore County.  Until 2002, only white candidates were elected from every County Councilmanic district, all of which were configured to encompass majority white populations. In 2001, civil rights activists, including the Baltimore County NAACP and ACLU of Maryland, urged the County to adopt a plan that would comply with the Voting Rights Act and that would ensure that Black residents could vote for a candidate of their choice to represent their community. The resulting plan included one district that had a majority Black population and in the 2002 election, voters in the district made history by electing the first-ever Black representative to the Baltimore County Council. Consistently since then, residents of the majority-Black district have elected Black representatives, while the remaining majority-white districts have all elected only white officials.  The groups assert that this pattern shows “the persistence of racially polarized voting and the importance of districting in addressing resulting minority vote dilution.”

Plaintiffs are represented by Andrew D. Freeman of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, John A. Freedman, Mark D. Colley, and Michael Mazullo of Arnold & Porter, and ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon.

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People's Maps Maryland Rally

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Yesterday, December 8th, more than 50 people from across Maryland gathered near the steps of the State Capitol in Annapolis, MD to make their voices heard about the new Congressional maps that were proposed by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission and passed by the Maryland General Assembly. The rally was organized by The League of Women Voters of Maryland, in collaboration with The People’s Maps Maryland. This non-partisan coalition strives to bring better representation to communities of interest and encourages all Marylanders to lend their voices to the democratic process.

The rally featured redistricting, social justice, and voting rights leaders who highlighted the importance of:

● Making sure that communities of interest that will have fair and equitable representation by enabling them to vote in the same election districts with others who have like interests. Whenever possible, drawing maps so any block of voters isn’t drowned out by an overwhelming majority of a single party thus assuring the votes aren’t wasted.

● One person, One vote is the goal for all and any maps drawn. Maps shouldn’t be drawn so any block of voters is drowned out by gerrymandered blocks

● Passing the federal Freedom to Vote Act that will protect our voting rights, get big money out of politics, ensure fair voting districts, and help to create a democracy that works for all.

The event began with the crowd chanting: “Fair maps for Us, Not for You!.” A call to all elected
officials to remember that they serve the people not their own interests. Deborah Mitchell, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Maryland spoke at the event saying “I’m not an expert on redistricting, but I am an expert on the lived experience of injustice. I’m telling you the politicians drawing lines to protect their power is an injustice.” Reverend Kobe Little, President of Baltimore County NAACP, stressed the importance of hearing the voters, “We have to vote in every election. That means we have to hold our elected officials accountable to the commitments they make when they promise them. That means we can’t just send people to office; we have to go with them. We have to show up.”

 

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LRAC Scoring

Three Non-Partisan Groups Evaluate Proposed Congressional Maps Released by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission

The non-partisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project (PGP) has given a Grade-F to the four Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission’s (LRAC) Congressional draft maps released on November 9, 2021. The LRAC electoral maps were graded on partisan fairness, competitiveness among other redrawn maps, compactness, and county splits. The PGP assessment helps Marylanders to compare these maps to others, including the final Congressional map of the Maryland Citizen Redistricting Commission. (See the Action Blog of October 27, 2021.)

Based on the most recent national and statewide elections data, the PGP-expected results will be 1 or 0 Republican and 7 or 8 Democratic members of Congress. Plans 1, 3, and 4 do not have any competitive districts; Plan 2 has one competitive district. All of these plans have 2 districts with 40 percent or more Black Voting Age Population (BVAP).

Another non-partisan group, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), has developed different analytical software, PlanScore, to evaluate partisan advantage in Congressional districts using the 2020 Presidential election results. Based on the PlanScore analysis, Democrats are predicted to win 86-90% of the seats with 64% of the vote share. The MCRC Congressional plan is also biased toward the Democrats but predicts that they will win only 79% of the seats.

A for-profit entity, FiveThirtyEight, presents their predicted partisan breakdown for these four LRAC and one MCRC map graphically at https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/maryland/. This is consistent with the above results.

LWVMD encourages the public to examine these maps and let the LRAC know specifically what is good or not about them. The League invites the public to also observe and respond to the continuing work of the LRAC and sign up to rally with us in Annapolis on December 8 when the Maryland General Assembly considers which Congressional map to adopt. 

The LRAC’s maps, in both easy-to-read PDF and an interactive format, can be accessed by the public by the link “Draft Congressional Concept Maps Released” at: https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Details?cmte=rac  

The LRAC has not yet released any legislative maps.

The details of the PGP’s Redistricting Report Cards on the Congressional maps are at:

Concept Plan 1: https://gerrymander.princeton.edu/redistricting-report-card?planId=rechkP8YGFzQ7DE2h

Concept Plan 2: https://gerrymander.princeton.edu/redistricting-report-card?planId=recXkmhD5ROcEW3vw

Concept Plan 3: https://gerrymander.princeton.edu/redistricting-report-card?planId=recAHafBYVYQDxv4l

Concept Plan 4: https://gerrymander.princeton.edu/redistricting-report-card?planId=recHDShZVMTIxI6rq

The details of the CLC’s PlanScore on the Congressional maps are at:

Concept Plan 1: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211112T211441.925930768Z

Concept Plan 2: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211112T212813.379313127Z

Concept Plan 3: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211112T213755.066603904Z

Concept Plan 4: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211112T214034.927619836Z

MCRC Final Map: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211113T195944.084461264Z

Historical Maps 2012-2020: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/maryland/#!2020-plan-ushouse-eg

 

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LRAC Map Release

The League of Women Voters of Maryland applauds the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission for releasing the Congressional draft maps. This is a promising sign that they are open to transparency and citizen input.

We were pleased to see that in LRAC’s release they have included four maps that demonstrate that the commission has heard the testimony given. Our hope is that this is an indication that LRAC and the Maryland General Assembly will continue to put partisanship aside to focus on the concerns of the residents of Maryland.

We urge all Marylanders to review these maps and send comments to LRAC in the coming weeks before the start of the special session on December 6th. Now is the time to contact your elected officials and demand they hear your concerns about these maps. We urge the Commissioners to hear this feedback and release a single map before the session starts. LWVMD continues to uphold our non-partisan mission and wants to ensure that, to the extent possible, all district lines are drawn with the goal of providing the best representation to the constituents in those districts. This can only be done through a transparent and public process.

To view the maps please go here:
https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/Other/Redistricting/webpage-110921.pdf

To send feedback to LRAC, please email them at: [email protected]

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Two Non-Partisan Groups Evaluate Maps Released by the Maryland Citizens' Redistricting Commission

The non-partisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project (PGP) has awarded a Grade-A score to the Maryland Citizen Redistricting Commission’s (MCRC) Congressional and State Senate draft maps released earlier this month. The MCRC electoral maps were graded on partisan fairness, competitiveness among other redrawn maps, and compactness and county splits. The PGP assessment helps Marylanders to understand what a fair map looks like, especially when compared to current district maps.

Based on the most recent national and statewide elections data, the PGP-expected results will be 2 Republican and 6 Democratic members of Congress and 14 Republican and 28 Democratic State Senators. Of the 47 state senate districts, five are competitive. Three Congressional districts have 40 percent or more Black Voting Age Population (BVAP); and six have 40 percent or more of total Minority Voting Age Population (MVAP). Fourteen of the senate districts have 40 percent or more BVAP, and twenty-eight have 40 percent or more of MVAP.

Another non-partisan group, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), has developed different analytical software, PlanScore, to evaluate partisan advantage in Congressional districts using the 2020 Presidential election results. Based on the PlanScore analysis, Democrats are predicted to win six Congressional seats, Republicans one, and the eighth district “leans Republican.” For the State Senate, PlanScore predicts 11 Republican seats plus 3 seats “leaning Republican,” and 30 Democratic seats plus 3 seats “leaning Democratic.”

The LWVMD encourages the public to examine these maps and let both the MCRC and the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission know specifically what is good or not about them. The League invites the public to also observe and respond to the work of both Commissions and to rally in Annapolis when the Maryland General Assembly considers the Congressional map. The MCRC’s maps, in both easily-read PDF and a format suitable for analysis, can be downloaded by the public at:https://apps.planning.maryland.gov/redistricting/commissionproposedmaps.html.

The details of the PGP’s Redistricting Report Cards are at:

Congressional: https://gerrymander.princeton.edu/redistricting-report-card/?planId=rec0XDaejLCSbXPBs

State Senate: https://gerrymander.princeton.edu/redistricting-report-card/?planId=recVPsqdcXQzIZzfT

The details of the CLC’s PlanScore are at:
Congressional:https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211021T165316.184621961Z
State Senate:https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/plan.html?20211020T202801.321259102Z

Historical Maps 2012-2020: https://planscore.campaignlegal.org/maryland/#!2020-plan-ushouse-eg

Maryland’s Delegate map, being a complex combination of single and multi-districts, cannot be graded by standard statistical models.

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LWVMD Calls on LARC To Not Hide the Map Drawing Process

“The Maryland Citizen Redistricting Commission Releases Draft Congressional and Legislative District Maps”

Media Contact Nikki Tyree, 410-269-0232 [email protected]

Response from League of Women Voters of Maryland.

The League of Women Voters of Maryland applauds the improved transparency and willingness to hear community voices of both of Maryland’s 2021 redistricting commissions, including the willingness to accept maps created by the public. However, the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission (LRAC), has not yet announced its intention to open the map-drawing process to the public. Further, the LRAC cannot get meaningful public input on its draft Congressional map unless it is released no later thanNovember 15.

The bi-partisan Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission (LRAC), also tasked with drawing Maryland’s legislative and Congressional district lines, is still in the process of its public regional hearings despite being formed in July. We are concerned about the public’s ability to meaningfully observe the map-drawing process. In addition, meaningful feedback is also needed from the public on the first draft of LRAC’s proposed maps. Releasing the Congressional map after the last hearing on November 18 will leave only a week for the public to study it, and no time for the Commission to consider the people’s comments. We ask that the Commission release the Congressional map before the hearings are completed, no later than November 15.

“If ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, then surely a draft map is worth more than statements like “we are committed to fair elections and representation for all Marylanders.” It’s time for the Legislative Commission to show us the dividing lines for the next ten years.” – Beth Hufnagel, Redistricting Committee Chair, League of Women Voters of Maryland

The working meetings of the multi-partisan Maryland Citizen Redistricting Commission’s (MCRC), including the public process of actually drawing the maps, was a fascinating tutorial on the challenges and myriad choices of this process. The release of the MCRC’s proposed Congressional and state Legislative maps at the start of October will leave sufficient time for their four scheduled hearings during October to secure community feedback, and for the MCRC to consider the public’s comments before it sends the final maps to Governor Hogan.


The League of Women Voters of Maryland implores the LRAC to not only listen to Maryland citizens during these hearings, but also to hear their constituents before they decide on what districts are best for communities they do not live in.

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LWVMD Calls For Redistricting Transparency

August 12, 2021
PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

With today’s Census Bureau’s data release the League of Women Voters of Maryland (LWVMD) calls for a redistricting process that includes maximum opportunity for public scrutiny. We are calling upon the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission (LRAC) to:

(1) demonstrate transparency by adhering to the Maryland General Assembly’s own Open Meetings Act;
(2) release the preliminary maps in a format suitable for quantitative analysis (GeoJSon) as soon as they are completed;
(3) hold multiple hybrid hearings, starting 2 weeks after the Commission releases its preliminary maps; and
(4) allow sufficient time for comments received at those hearings to be considered by the Commission—well before the start of the General Assembly’s 90-day session.

The LWVMD further calls on the LRAC to demonstrate its commitment to fairness by adopting standards, before its
process begins, that DO NOT:
● consider how individuals are registered to vote, how they have voted in the past, or the political parties to which
they belong; and
● consider the domicile or residence of any incumbent officeholder or potential candidates.

“In a democracy, voters must have the opportunity to pick their own legislators, not the other way around.” said DeborahMitchell, LWVMD co-president. “Trust between the voters and the people they elect must be nurtured.”For the first time a new form of public input is available: maps created by communities of interest (COI). The LWVMD requests that the LRAC reach out and gather COI maps from underrepresented communities and consider them in their mapping deliberations. Splitting communities is a form of voter suppression.

The LWVMD challenges the LRAC to use a dedicated website that both gathers information the Commission has released and provides information the public wishes to offer, a standard communications tool and form of transparency. At this point, the public does not even have contact information for the chair of the LRAC. Details of the LWVMD redistricting position, including background, is available on the LWVMD website.


For more information please contact Nikki Tyree at [email protected]

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Post Session Actions (and Non-Actions)

In April, our volunteer advocates submitted reports informing us which bills they were following had passed and which didn’t pass.

As reported at the time, 3 of the 4 policing accountability bills that passed and were sent to the Governor during the session were vetoed but those vetoes were over-ridden during session.

Another bill, HB 1372 Blueprint for Maryland's Future – Revisions passed during session and was on the Governor's desk for 6 days during which he took no action which meant it became law without his signature. The same process occurred with SB 786 Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 - Baltimore City - Control of the Police Department of Baltimore City and SB 683 Election Law - Voting - Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports.

The fate of the remaining bills that were reported on that had passed and been sent to the Governor was not known at the time. 

This is what has happened.  

Protecting the Vote 

HB 1048 Election Law – Permanent Absentee Ballot List, Ballot Drop Boxes, and Reports will go into law without the Governor’s signature.

HB 222 Election Law – Correctional Facilities – Voter Registration and Voting (Value My Vote Act) will go into law without the Governor’s signature.

HB 156 Student and Military Voter Empowerment Act will go into law without the Governor’s signature.

Government Transparency 

HB 183 Public Information Act – Revisions (Equitable Access to Records Act) will go into law without the Governor’s signature. 

HB 133 State Finance and Procurement - Appropriation Reductions (Board of Public Works Budget Reduction Clarification Act) was vetoed by the Governor. 

Public Education

SB 66 Digital Connectivity Act of 2021 was signed into law by Governor. 

Affordable Housing/Evictions

HB 18 Landlord and Tenant-Residential Tenants-Right to Counsel will go into law without the Governor’s signature.

Transportation

HB 114-Transportation - Maryland Transit Administration Funding and MARC Rail Extension Study (Transit Safety and Investment Act) was vetoed by the Governor. 

SB 199 Maryland Transit Administration - Funding (Transit Safety and Investment Act) was vetoed by the Governor

HB 414-Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project – Funding will go into law without the Governor's signature. 

SB 137 - Maryland Transit Administration – Conversion to Zero–Emission Buses (Zero–Emission Bus Transition Act) will go into law without the Governor’s signature.

The bills listed above that were vetoed by the Governor passed by enough votes to override those vetoes when the General Assembly next convenes.  Advocates will be working to make this happen.  The same is true of many of the other bills that were vetoed.

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Clean Energy Legislative Update

Clean Energy - Shari Glenn

SB 414 /HB483 Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021 was the major environmental focus this year of the League and dozens of coalition members. The legislation required the State to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 2006 levels by 2030; to achieve net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2045; required the Maryland Department of Labor to adopt regulations establishing energy conservation requirements for buildings by July 1, 2022; and established a goal of planting and helping to maintain 5,000,000 sustainable trees of species native to the State by the end of 2030. The bill passed both chambers but died on the last day of the session. The bill will be back on the agenda next year with more time to reach an acceptable compromise.

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Public Transportation Legislative Wrap Up

Public Transportation

HB 114 -Transportation - Maryland Transit Administration Funding and MARC Rail Extension Study (Transit Safety and Investment Act)  Baltimore and other state areas that depend on Maryland Department of Transportation for transit have not had system maintenance funded for many years as a study in 2019 showed. This legislation mandates funding additional to anticipated spending from the Transportation Trust Fund for six years to address transit “state of good repair” needs identified by the MTA. The number of years to be funded has been controversial with reduced funding desired by the Senate. Status: sent to Governor.

SB 137 - Maryland Transit Administration – Conversion to Zero–Emission Buses (Zero–Emission Bus Transition Act) By prohibiting the purchase of any bus that emits emissions after 2023, this bill provides a timeline of bus longevity for the MTA bus fleet to transition to zero emissions. Status: sent to Governor.

HB 414-Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Project – Funding

Maryland has completed five major studies on the feasibility, need, and economic impact of high-capacity, fixed-route transit service to Southern Maryland, and despite the conclusion of every study repeatedly confirming that the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit project would vastly improve the quality of life for Southern Maryland residents, promote economic development consistent with smart growth, and advance the State's emissions reduction goal, the Maryland Department of Transportation has not moved forward with the project. HB414 requires the State to complete the NEPA study and, contingent on federal funding, provides for at least $5 million in matching state funds from the Transportation Trust Fund to do so. Status: sent to Governor.

HB 67 I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership - Partnership Agreement - Requirements (Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act of 2021) 

This bill put in writing the promises that Governor Hogan and the Maryland Department of Transportation made about the expansion of I-495 and I-270. The amended bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. It is doubtful if it will be resubmitted next year. 

In 2022, we can expect more social justice and zero-emission /electrification transportation bills.

 

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