Federal Panel Questions Md. Map Challenge

Wednesday, 21 Dec 2011 09:26 AM

By Greg McDonald

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A federal three-judge panel sounded doubtful Tuesday that Maryland’s redistricting advisory committee intentionally set out to dilute black voting strength when it redrew congressional districts in October, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Opponents of the new maps, which were approved by the state assembly, are challenging them in U.S. District Court, arguing they are unconstitutional because they split apart several predominantly black communities and radically changed the lines of one strongly Republican district.  
At a hearing on the case, a lawyer representing nine plaintiffs was quoted by the Sun of accusing the Democratic-controlled assembly of “carving up the black communities to ensure the election of non-Hispanic white candidates.”
“If that is the motivation, it is hard to get racial discrimination out of that evidence,” said Judge Paul V. Neimeyer, who remarked the maps looked to him more like they were drawn to protect incumbents.
Assistant Attorney General Dan Friedman, who defended the state map, was quoted by the Sun as denying any racist intent in the redistricting effort. He noted the redistricting committee was headed by a black woman and three leading state officials, who are also black, testified in favor of the map.

“It is impossible for me to believe that the main purpose of the map was infected by racism,” Friedman said, according to the Sun. “If that were the case, the entire African-American leadership in the state of Maryland was hoodwinked. I don’t believe that happened.”

Nonetheless, the judges did indicate that they thought some districts had been redrawn in an “odd” or “peculiar shape,” as one put it. One judge, Roger Titus, said it looked to him like “a gerrymander.”

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