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Rep. Edwards, Montgomery Co. officials oppose congressional maps

Breaking her silence on Maryland's proposed redistricting plan, Rep. Donna Edwards said Tuesday that she will not support the current proposal because it dilutes minority voting power in Montgomery County.

In a lengthy statement, the Prince George's County Democrat argues that her district was created in 1992 to provide minority communities in suburban Washington a chance to chose a minority representative. The new maps, she said, would reduce the district's share of black voters at a time when the African American population has grown -- and would likely lead to no minority representation in Montgomery County.

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"I understand and share the political interests that are at stake, both nationally and in our state," Edwards said in the statement. "Nonetheless, I cannot support this plan in its current form given that minority representation interests appear to have been sacrificed for these political interests."

Edwards suggested that Gov. Martin O'Malley must make substantial changes to the map before he presents it to the General Assembly next week for review. O'Malley has previously said he does not anticipate making major adjustments to the maps.

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Edwards' comments came on the same day that several Montgomery County officials also staked out their opposition to the plan. Montgomery County Council members, state lawmakers and union officials argued during a press conference in Rockville Tuesday that political gain for Democrats should be secondary to protecting minority voting rights.

"We believe this is a fight worth having," said Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin.

"We're concerned about diluting our strength as a community," said Del. Susan Lee, a Montgomery County Democrat, who argued that Asian voters are split into multiple districts under the proposed map.

Elbridge James, political director for the NAACP in Maryland, said he and members of state's Legislative Black Caucus intend to meet with O'Malley on Wednesday to discuss their concerns. If major changes are not made, James said, the group would consider supporting a lawsuit under the federal Voting Rights Act.

-John Fritze


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