Redistricting Baltimore County

Premier Voting and Civil Rights Experts Detail Minority Vote Dilution, Racially Polarized Voting, History of Racial Exclusion and Segregation

PRESS RELEASE FROM ACLU

BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD – Late Wednesday, Black voters and civil rights organizations filed papers urging United Sates District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby to issue an injunction overturning Baltimore County’s racially discriminatory redistricting plan and requiring the County to reconfigure its election system in compliance with the Voting Rights Act.Arguing powerfully for why the plan should be blocked, the filing includes comprehensive expert analyses and maps from some of the nation’s top voting rights experts, an influential author and researcher on the racialized history of the Baltimore region, and a former NAACP president who has strongly advocated for civil rights in Baltimore County for over two decades. They explain how the County Council’s dilution of Black voters would illegally allow white voters, who make up barely half of the County’s population and will soon be a minority, to control six of the council’s seven seats for the next decade.

The filing begins:

This case calls for a straightforward, yet urgent and critically important, application of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Baltimore County’s burgeoning Black population (now 32 percent of the County’s overall population) and its Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) population (now 48 percent of the total) are sufficiently large and geographically compact to easily establish two majority-Black districts among the seven County Council districts, as well as a third “influence” district with population divided equally between white and BIPOC voters. Absent creation of these districts, racial polarization among voters will enable the white majority to override the will of minority voters and maintain Baltimore County’s nearly all-white government by diluting the influence of Black and BIPOC voters, discouraging Black candidacies, and preventing residents of color from electing their chosen representatives. . . . This is precisely the scenario Section 2 was intended to remedy.

The filing is supported by a declaration by Matthew Barreto, Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a premier national expert on voting rights and redistricting who has testified in more than three dozen federal voting rights cases, and worked with scores of civil rights groups and governmental agencies, including the State of Maryland. That declaration analyzes how elections in Baltimore County that featured Black candidates challenging white candidates have been characterized by striking racial polarization in voting. Baretto worked with Dr. Kassra Oskooii, Professor of Political Science at the University of Delaware, on the analysis, conclusively finding:

Black voters demonstrated strong cohesion, voting in strong support for Black candidates. This trend was apparent in both primary and general election contests among voters in Baltimore County. White voters voted as a bloc against Black-preferred candidates.

The filing also includes maps and vote dilution analysis by William S. Cooper, one of the country’s leading demographers, with more than three decades of experience advising civil rights plaintiffs and government agencies – again including the State of Maryland – on creating redistricting plans that comply with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Federal courts across the country have relied on Cooper’s analyses and plans in dozens of cases, including in an Eastern Shore voting rights case in which Maryland’s federal court used Cooper’s analysis to strike down as racially discriminatory Worcester County’s election system. Cooper provided Baltimore County with five separate plans that would comply with the Voting Rights Act, each of which the County rejected without justification.

Also supporting the plaintiffs is a declaration by Dr. Lawrence T. Brown, Community Research Scientist at the Center for Urban Health Equity at Morgan State University and author of the “The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America,” describing Baltimore County’s extensive history of excluding Black people from housing and seeking to exclude them from the County entirely. Dr. Brown summarizes the County’s shameful history of discriminating against Black residents and their communities, not only in housing but also in the areas of education, infrastructure, government services, government employment, and police violence. This history has resulted in Baltimore County being the most segregated major county in Maryland and one of the most hypersegregated metropolitan areas in the country.

Additionally, a declaration by Anthony Fugett, one of the individual plaintiffs and former president of the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP, who led the organization from 2000 through 2021, describes the County’s long record of discriminatory actions to maintain its nearly all white government, leading up to the current redistricting plan. Fugett’s testimony tells the story of how, over time, the County has used its power to maintain white majorities, to discourage Black candidates from running for office, and to defeat the few Black candidates who have sought office in majority-white areas. He laments that, notwithstanding enormous public outcry throughout the 2021 redistricting process, this historical pattern was continued, necessitating the NAACP court action: 

At the end of the process, the County Council adopted, by unanimous vote, a blatantly unfair and discriminatory plan that maintains for the next decade an election system that will prevent election of Black candidates or other candidates of color in six of the seven Council districts, while packing a huge percentage of Black voters into a single super-majority-Black district. There could be no better example of the disrespect for Black voices, and the unresponsiveness to community concerns with which Baltimore County officials too often conduct themselves.

The federal court lawsuit challenging Baltimore County’s unlawful redistricting plan was brought by seven individual voters – Charles Sydnor, Anthony Fugett, Dana Vickers Shelley, Danita Tolson, Sharon Blake, Gerald Morrison, and Niesha McCoy – and the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, and Common Cause – Maryland.

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

PRESS RELEASE FROM ACLU


Expansion of County Council Seats

LWVBCo upcoming vote to expand County Council seats

LWV Baltimore County plans a vote on changing one of our positions at the 10 a.m. February 3, 2022 board meeting. 

We have a local position in favor of maintaining the current number of county council seats which was approved in 1992 and 2002. Since then, the population in Baltimore County has expanded significantly and the Black population is compressed into one councilmanic district, diluting their representation

Our current position is:  

"ACTION to support maintaining the present number (7) of County Council Districts (1992) (2002)." (2021 Positions)

Our league recently spoke up and joined an ACLU lawsuit in opposition to the racially gerrymandered redistricting plan. Another strategy to address this issue is to create additional council districts which could create additional majority-minority districts. The advocacy community in Baltimore County is planning to collect signatures to place this issue on the ballot as a referendum. One of our members, Linda Dorsey Walker, is already working with the Fair Maps Coalition to collect signatures. 

This issue is of great importance from a systemic inequality perspective and is in conflict with our Diversity Equity and Inclusion policy (Bylaws). Our position is out of date with what's happening in the county. If we keep the existing position, we will be unable to advocate for racial justice by championing an increase in councilmanic districts in Baltimore County. 

We should support the expansion of county council seats for the following reasons: 

  • Our council districts currently each represent around 122,000 people. By contrast, Howard County's districts represent about 60,000 each and Montgomery County has 7 districts representing about 150,000 people AND four at-large representatives. 
  • The Black population of Baltimore County is currently packed into a single district. Creating more districts could create more minority-majority districts and give Black residents equitable representation. 
  • Creation of more districts would create more opportunity for people not currently represented on the council - women, youth, LGBTQ+, and people of color. 

Because this is an issue of fair representation and apportionment covered by the LWVUS positions on voting rights, the LWVUS advises that we may invite members for input and have the board vote on the issue. We welcome your input. Please feel free to send me your input via email in advance of the meeting, or plan to attend the board meeting Thursday, Feb. 3 at 10 a.m. using this Google Meets link.

Ericka McDonald (she/her)

Co-President, League of Women Voters, Baltimore County 

Elected Director, League of Women Voters, Maryland

 [email protected]


WE SUE TO DEFEND VOTING RIGHTS IN REDISTRICTING

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 McDonald, League 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.

Documents: balt_co_redistricting_-_d._md._21-cv-03232_dckt_000001_000_filed_2021-12-21.pdf

ACLU, https://www.aclu-md.org/en/press-releases/black-voters-baltimore-county-naacp-league-women-voters-and-common-cause-sue-defend, Dec. 21, 2021


Late Summer 2021

Vacinated and back in business!

During our summer board retreat we updated our programming, invigorated our focus, set new goals, and strengthened our motivations to make 2021-2021 our best year ever!

Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, DEI, committee scheduled bimonthly meetings throughout the upcoming months. Our organization pledged to be more inclusive and supportive. We need volunteers for this goal.

Voter registration is underway with an energized committee. Already dates have been posted on our calendar for registering new voters. We strive to make voting accessible particularly to those in underserved communities. Check back for our progress!

Many members participated in the online Maryland Redistricting Commission (Maryland has some of the worst gerrymandered districts in the Country) and 2030 Baltimore County Master Plan meetings. Our work will continue through the fall watching this governmental process.

And stay tuned for our September events. Check our calendar for details. https://www.lwvbaltimorecounty.org/calendar_events

Thursday, 8/28 Voter Registration Online training.

Wednesday 9/8 New & Prospective Member Meet and Greet, 7 p.m. Register here.  Learn about our league and meet fellow members.

Tuesday, 9/28 National Voter Registration Day