BALTIMORE, MD—In materials submitted to the Baltimore County Redistricting Commission, the Baltimore County NAACP and the ACLU of Maryland have voiced concerns that the redistricting plan the Commission is potentially recommending would “unlawfully dilute Black people’s votes, in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act,” according to a press release.
“We cannot seek redistricting for the benefit of some and forget about how it may affect others,” said Dr. Danita Tolson, president of the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP. “In 2001, we fought this battle; we had to stand to get someone elected and now we are back in the same situation with history repeating itself. We do not have a history of electing a minority candidate in a majority white district. Therefore, we want to have equal representation in the county resulting in diversity. We feel that the demographics show that there should be two majority minority districts. Equal minority representation in each district is needed for distributive and social justice.”
The letter accompanying the NAACP-ACLU proposal states:
“[T]hese demographic changes also bring with them corresponding responsibilities under the federal Voting Rights Act, in order to ensure that the County’s redistricting process and election system are racially fair, affording all voters – old and new, Black, Brown and white – realistic opportunities to fully participate in the electoral process and to elect candidates of their choice. To achieve racial fairness and comply with the Voting Rights Act the redistricting plan proposed for the County should – to the greatest extent possible – be one that reflects the overall diversity of the County, and that gives residents opportunities to elect their chosen candidates roughly proportionate to their numbers in the population.”
Instead of meeting this goal, the groups says that the Commission’s proposed plan would maintain a white majority in six of seven Council districts by “packing” a supermajority of Black voters into its single majority Black district, a tactic the U.S. Supreme Court has counseled against. In contrast, the NAACP-ACLU alternative proposal would create two majority Black districts among the seven, plus a third “swing” or “influence” district that would include about even numbers of white and BIPOC voters.
“It’s alarming that the Commission charged with leading the County’s redistricting efforts has spent months working on this plan and still at the eleventh hour seems oblivious to the Voting Rights Act and its racial justice requirements,” said Deborah Jeon, legal director of ACLU of Maryland and an author of the NAACP/ACLU proposal. “We think racial fairness should be the Commission’s top priority, not some forgettable afterthought.”
“One major objective of the NAACP Baltimore County Branch is to promote active civic engagement and voter participation of African Americans and other minorities in Baltimore County.” said Clifford Collins, Political Action chair of the Baltimore County NAACP. “The demographics revealed by the 2020 U.S. Census confirm that African Americans and other minorities have the potential to increase their representation on the Baltimore County Council. To that end, the Baltimore County NAACP and the ACLU of Maryland created a second majority-minority councilmanic district. The creation of this district will help to ensure a candidate of residents’ choosing will be elected to serve on the Baltimore County Council.”
The Baltimore County NAACP and ACLU of Maryland’s letter can be viewed online here and below.
“Our diversity is our strength in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Wednesday. “I share the concerns raised by community members and I urge the County Council to carefully consider the issues raised as they begin their process of reviewing the redistricting commission’s proposed map.”
The Baltimore County Redistricting Commission has not made its proposed map public, however the NAACP/ACLU alternative redistricting proposal can be viewed above.