November 09, 2011 at 9:08 pm
By Glynis Kazanjian
Nine Maryland citizens will file a joint lawsuit in federal court Thursday charging the state with numerous civil rights violations that occurred as a result of last month’s congressional redistricting, according to Radamese Cabrera, a spokesman for Fannie Lou Hamer – Political Action Committee – an African American voting rights group.
“The Voting Rights Act is very clear. It defines how you redistrict and how you group residents of the state,” said Prince George’s County resident Patricia Fletcher, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “You group them by communities of interest, as individuals and minorities. Community of interest is not defined by the political party you belong to or whether or not you can get a Democrat, a Republican or Independent elected.”
The plaintiffs will be represented by Washington, D.C. based Holtzman Vogel LPPC, largely with the financial support of Republican Reps. Roscoe Bartlett and Andy Harris, with money funnelled through the nonprofit Legacy Foundation of Iowa. The lawsuit is expected to cost over $250,000.
“The Republican Party supports it,” said state GOP chairman Alex Mooney. “We’re proud to work with African American voters who have been disenfranchised.”
The plaintiffs will argue their case under four broad categories:
One, a third African American majority-minority voting district should have been created in the 5th Congressional District.
Two, Congressional Districts 4 and 7 should have greater African American voting strength;
Three, political gerrymandering took place in Congressional Districts 2 and 3;
Four, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was violated in Montgomery County.
The group will also explore the state’s decision to exclude 1,321 prisoners from the redistricting population when they were included in the 2010 U.S. Census count, Cabrera said.
The Fannie Lou Hamer – Political Action Committee formed shortly before the 2011 congressional redistricting process came to an end. The group has spearheaded a legal undertaking to challenge the state’s controversial redistricting maps, although they are legally prohibited from participating as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Several groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU and newly formed Marylanders for Fair and Coherent Representation expressed interest in participating in the lawsuit, according to Cabrera, but all eventually backed out.
Getting funding had held up filing the lawsuit.
“We would not be going into court tomorrow, if the funding was not there,” Cabrera said.
Maryland attorney James P. Mayes helped the lawsuit get underway. Cabrera said the nine Maryland citizens to be named as plaintiffs include: Patricia Fletcher, Janis Hagey, Julia Williams, Mykel Harris and Trevelyn Otts of Prince George’s County; Winnie Mae Campbell and Donald Glover of Baltimore City; Michael Thompson of Montgomery County and Robina Spruill of Charles County.
All plaintiffs are residents of Congressional Districts 4, 5 and 7.
See more stories related to the Fannie Lou Hamer Congressional Redistricting lawsuit:
Len Lazarick contributed to this story.