October 12, 2011

Bolstering representation helps all minorities, including GOP

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The first group to propose a congressional redistricting plan with three majority minority districts was not one of the minority groups now protesting the maps recommended to the governor by his advisory committee. It was the Maryland Republican Party.

This week, Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin, the Upper Shore Republican, and Sen. Joseph Getty, R-Carroll have also proposed plans of their own. They are compact and contiguous, and give African Americans, along with Latinos and other growing minorities groups a fighting chance at three districts. Here are Pipkin’s plan and Getty’s plan.

Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs said she will introduce a revised plan supported by the Republican Party.

Not surprisingly, these plans also give Republicans a shot at representing three districts instead of the two they already have. Three seats would be consistent with party registration in Maryland, Getty noted.

A plan that concentrates blacks, Latinos and Asians in the urban areas also helps the other minority group living in the rural and ex-urban areas – Republicans.

This partly explains the GOP’s dominance in states of the old South, where federal law has promoted minority districts. Black Democrats are often concentrated in strangely shaped districts, making the other districts easier pickings for white Republicans.

In our story Friday, a representative of the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee complained that the map proposed to Gov. Martin O’Malley winds up protecting white, incumbent Democratic lawmakers.  As a Prince Georgian, he could have also complained that the map preserves the continued historical dominance by politicians in the Baltimore area, where four of the current eight members of the House of Representatives live–three of them a short drive from each other in Towson and Cockeysville. The other four House members are spread from St. Mary’s County to Frederick.

Pipkin and Getty say they will submit their plans in next week’s special session of the legislature. If they got the Black Legislative Caucus to go along with them, they might have the votes to pass a plan. But the creation of the third minority district pretty much precludes the Democrats’ overarching goal of picking up a seventh seat in the 6th Congressional District.

Without the solidly Democratic minority voters sprinkled throughout the districts of current incumbents, Democratic incumbents become more vulnerable to challenge. And the national party comes up short in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Democrats still might do, no matter what happens in Maryland.

Republican legislatures in other states are gerrymandering as furiously as the Democrats here.

What black Democrats in Maryland are being asked to do is “take one for the party.” Despite the protests by minority groups, it is still difficult for them to agree on a plan that does not help Republicans at the same time.

If the governor’s plan passes intact, the groups have pledged to file federal lawsuits challenging it on the basis of its failure to protect minority representation. But if those suits succeed, any outcome is likely to aid all Maryland’s minorities, including the GOP.

—Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com