WASHINGTON – Even though the General Assembly won’t redraw political districts until the 2002 session, Maryland Republicans are already contemplating a lawsuit over the coming redistricting.
Democrats hold the governorship and both chambers of the General Assembly in Maryland, giving them complete control of the redistricting process. That has Republican leaders concerned that state and federal legislative districts will be redrawn to dilute GOP power.
“The legislature, as a whole, are vindictive,” said Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. “We’ll be forced to take them to court if they’re too vindictive.”
State Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden, R-Howard, said the party would sue if the Democrats do not respect population shifts, geographic and jurisdictional boundaries and minority representation.
“It depends how far the Democrats go,” he said. “We would take them to federal court and urge the court to accept our plan.”
The Republicans will create their own plan within the next few months to take around the state, while Gov. Parris Glendening and the legislature’s Democratic leadership do the same.
“Unlike the Democrats’ partisan plan, ours will be a consensus plan,” Madden said.
Republicans are angered by what they say are threats by Glendening and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, to target the GOP in redistricting.
At a news conference Wednesday to announce a potential bid by Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr., D-Montgomery, against Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, Miller said he is confident that redistricting will put more Democrats into Morella’s district.
One reason the Republicans are threatening a lawsuit is that it could help rein in such brash Democratic moves.
“We might end up seeing a very different Democratic plan, because they don’t want to take their chances with a lawsuit,” said House Minority Leader Robert Kittleman, R-Howard.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years following the decennial census.
Lawsuits challenging redistricting are nothing new. Eleven such suits were filed in state and federal courts after the 1991 Maryland redistricting plan passed.
Those included a Republican lawsuit claiming districts varied greatly in population to benefit Democrats and a bipartisan lawsuit challenging Anne Arundel County’s division into four congressional districts. Both cases were dismissed.
The one successful lawsuit in Maryland was brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and forced the state to redraw Lower Shore legislative districts to benefit minority candidates.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo — whose 4th District was created explicitly in 1991 as a minority congressional district — said he did not know if the Republicans would sue this time, but said he would not be surprised if it happened.
“Lawsuits over redistricting are getting to be a fairly regular thing,” Wynn said.
Maryland Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said he would rather not go to court but that he will if the Democrats are petty and fail to draw lines that reflect the makeup of the state.
“We’re going to aggressively go after this redistricting effort,” said Republican Chairman Michael Steele. “We’ll use every available means to address inequities. . .and courts are going to be a part of it.”
Madden said he does not expect Democrats to cut the Republican Party any slack in redistricting, though.
“This is a classic example of the golden rule — them with the gold makes the rules,” he said.
Whether it comes from the Republicans or someone else, Legislative Services Director Karl Aro, said he expects there to be lawsuits over whatever plan is passed.
“We’re going to end up going to court,” said Aro, who creates the redistricting maps for both parties in the General Assembly. “Any registered voter in the state has standing to sue, so someone is going to do it.”