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County Senators Seek to Overturn Redistricting Plan

A suit filed by Democratic Senators Delores Kelley and Jim Brochin says the plan violates the Maryland Constitution and protects the political voice of Baltimore City at the expense of Baltimore County.

UPDATED (1:13 p.m.)—Two Baltimore County state senators have filed suit in the state Court of Appeals seeking to overturn Maryland's recently enacted legislative redistricting plan.

Democratic Senators Jim Brochin and Delores Kelley, in a suit filed Tuesday, claim the new districts violate the Maryland Constitution and a 2002 Court of Appeals ruling that governs redistricting. A copy of the lawsuit is attached to this story.

The suit is one of four seeking to overturn Gov. Martin O'Malley's redistricting plan.

At the heart of the 17-page complaint are allegations that the commission that redrew the state's 47 legislative districts unfairly protected the city's political power in Annapolis, while diluting the county's representation.

"For some reason, the people who drew the map felt it was OK to take 20 precincts from Delores Kelley's district and put them into a city district and then contort the rest of the districts in the county to make it all work," Brochin said.

The suit further alleges that the maps violate constitutional requirements that the legislative districts be compact.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for O'Malley, said the four law suits did not come as a surprise.

"What redistricting plan exists where no one is unhappy?" Guillory said.

"We comply with the letter and the spirit of the law and are more than confident it will stand up to any challenge," Guillory said, adding that the state will file a formal response by the end of the month.

Earlier this year, the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Commission submitted a plan to redraw the state's 47 legislative districts based on 2010 Census data.

Part of the plan called for stretching the 44th Legislative District in Baltimore City into a portion of western Baltimore County currently represented primarily by Kelley. The result pushed districts in Baltimore County north, including districts represented by Kelley and Brochin.

The suit alleges that the city, with a population of 620,961, should have just five districts all fully within its borders. The city currently has six legislative districts within its boundaries.

Baltimore County, with a population of 805,029, should have at least six full legislative districts fully within its borders. Currently, the county is represented by eight legislative districts. Three of those—the 5th, 7th and 12th—are shared with Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, respectively.

The lawsuit claims the plan "fails to recognize the growing population imbalance between Baltimore City and Baltimore County."

In 2002, the Court of Appeals redrew a map submitted by then-Gov. Parris Glendening that contained multiple examples of shared districts, including four between Baltimore City and County.

In redrawing the map, the court eliminated all of those shared city-county districts.

"In doing so, this court enunciated the principals described in this petition," states Brochin's and Kelley's lawsuit, referencing the 2002 decision. "Barring some evidence that a crossing is necessary in this case to accommodate one of the other constitutional considerations...any cross-jurisdictional legislative district between Baltimore City and Baltimore County is impermissible."

The lawsuit asks for an alternative plan with five districts fully contained within the borders of the city.

"How those legislative districts are drawn is not the proper consideration of (Brochin and Kelley), who are Baltimore County residents," the suit states, adding: "that once Baltimore City is 'constitutionally separated' from Baltimore County, there are an infinite number of possible configurations from which this court might choose to arrange a set of legislative districts that conform to the other constitutional considerations."

Not everyone believes the city is benefiting at the expense of Baltimore County.

Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant, D-District 40, said the redistricting plan is a boon to African-American county residents because it adds two black delegates and one black senator to represent them.

“The black community is getting more representatives,” Tarrant said.

Tarrant, who lost North Baltimore neighborhoods such as Hampden and Roland Park due to redistricting, said he feels it’s important for the city to maintain a single member district.

He said that he was hopeful the redistricting plan would hold up in court, but expressed concern especially after the Court of Appeals 2002 redistricting decision. 

This story has been updaed to correct the number of legislative districts located within Baltimore City.

Scott Sewell May 02, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Good luck.
Josephine Hlatki May 03, 2012 at 12:21 AM
The Republicans were totally ignored because it was a Democrat forced issue. Let's see how this goes.
sylvia May 03, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Why does everything have to come down to voting? Whatever benefits the needs of the people in any district is what is important. Remember, elected officials are supposed to work at the pleasure of their constituents. Do the people ever get to make these kinds of decisions? Were the people in these districts asked?
DHAMMER May 05, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Baltimore should be in it's own boundry,they should not be part of BaltimoreCounty's representation period.Next thing you'll know Baltimore County will be annexed by Baltimore.
abbistani May 06, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Well, they would have to amend the state constitution to do it. How likely do you think that would be?

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