ANNAPOLIS – Delegate Joseph J. “Sonny” Minnick, chairman of the Baltimore County delegation, figuratively passed a collection plate among his delegation members Friday.
He was looking for funding for a lawsuit he and other lawmakers from his district plan to file on behalf of Baltimore County citizens. The suit would be over Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s redistricting plan, which cuts one district from his county.
Baltimore should have lost districts, and not the county, Minnick said. Baltimore’s population dropped more than 100,000 people, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, while Baltimore County gained about that many new residents, he said.
At the delegation’s weekly meeting, he asked if anyone would like to make a financial contribution, to which Delegate Donald Murphy, R-Baltimore County, jokingly responded that he would only if the lawsuit also would be filed against the governor’s congressional reapportionment map, which was released Thursday.
The congressional district map was widely seen as giving Democrats more of an advantage in winning seats, now split evenly between the two parties.
“I’m not typically fond of lawsuits,” Murphy said in a later interview, “but clearly this is necessary. I know (Minnick’s) side of town took it on the chin.”
Minnick’s suit is just one of a handful that may be filed over the map. The Baltimore Teachers Union is also considering legal action, said Neal Janey, their attorney.
The teachers union quibbles with the fact that district lines do not coincide with city boundaries, a constitutional violation of the Voting Rights Act, Janey said. Therefore, Baltimore should only have, at most, one shared district outside of city lines, and not three.
Having Baltimore districts entirely within city lines is something Baltimore County lawmakers support as well.
“In District 12, half of it is in Howard County,” Murphy said. “So how do you count that? Baltimore County is really being disenfranchised.”
Janey said he understands the county’s gripe.
“When you deal with reapportionment and redistricting,” he said, “you’re not going to find too many happy campers.”
Janey also pointed to the 44th district, where lines were shifted to take a formerly 75 percent African-American district down to 52 percent. That is the district of Sen. Clarence Mitchell IV, D-Baltimore, who had earlier threatened to leave the Democratic Party in protest over the map.
“We feel that the dilution of the African-American voting block is in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” Janey said.
But before any groups take action, they will have to wait and see if the governor or the General Assembly will make changes to the map, before the 45-day deadline expires. If the map goes forward without changes, Minnick said he would file the lawsuit. “I’m just making the arrangements for that,” Minnick said. As for Minnick’s fund-raising effort, he has garnered the support of at least one delegate. “I’ll probably get on board with whatever Sonny’s doing,” Murphy said. “I’ll probably give some money. Can you give any more support than that?”