Baltimore County

Baltimore County redistricting: Here’s why federal judge approved county’s redrawn map over objections

Baltimore County officials succeeded in their second attempt at redrawing council boundaries because the new map creates a second district where Black voters have an “opportunity” to elect their preferred candidate, according to a federal judge.

The redrawn map does not create a second majority-Black council district in Baltimore County, which is about one-third Black, as civil rights groups suing the county had sought.


But, according to U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby’s Friday order, the county’s efforts did create a district where Black voters have the opportunity to “elect a representative of their choice,” in part because it could serve as a “crossover” district where coalitions of like-minded voters join together.

The redrawn district allowing for that opportunity, she said, remedied the Voting Rights Act violation she previously found.


Griggsby’s ruling approved the county’s redrawn map for the 2022 election cycle and beyond, but did not end the underlying lawsuit. She made her decision public Thursday in a joint call, prior to the written order’s release.

The Baltimore County Council voted unanimously that evening to approve the new map, even as critics including the NAACP Baltimore County branch, League of Women Voters of Baltimore County and Common Cause-Maryland argued it didn’t satisfy Voting Rights Act requirements.

The plaintiffs have said they are considering opportunities for a possible appeal. It’s also possible they could push forward with the original lawsuit arguing the county violated federal law.

“Plaintiffs are evaluating what our next steps should be,” said Andrew Freeman, an attorney for the plaintiffs from the Baltimore firm Brown Goldstein and Levy. “Baltimore County is close to a third Black, and barely half-white, and yet the overwhelmingly white County Council has created a map that continues to make white voters the majority in six out of seven districts.”

Various legal fights over redistricting maps already have delayed Maryland’s primary election three weeks, to July 19.

Another jurist, retired state appeals judge Lynne A. Battaglia, on Friday rejected the state’s congressional map, approved by the Democratic-majority General Assembly, as unconstitutional.

Griggsby’s order sets an April 29 deadline for a joint status report detailing both parties’ views on whether the court should dismiss the matter or schedule further proceedings.

Baltimore County’s legal team had argued in an earlier hearing that the demographics for the district in question, District 2, has a white Jewish population that has historically joined together with Black county voters on their candidate of choice.


Citing analyses provided by both parties, Griggsby wrote that while “the Black-preferred candidate does not always win in the County’s proposed District 2 … there can be no genuine dispute that the Black-preferred candidate’s chance of winning in District 2 improves considerably under the County map, when compared to the actual election results.”

“Given this, the evidence before the Court shows that the County’s proposed District 2 can perform for Black County voters,” she wrote.

To Freeman, however, that coalition does not always vote together.

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Black voters and white Jewish voters may join together to support white Democratic candidates, he said, but “unfortunately, white Jewish voters have a history of abandoning that coalition to vote against Black candidates.”


Griggsby ordered the county in February to adopt a new map with either two majority-Black districts or a new district that provided Black voters with the opportunity to elect “a representative of their choice.”

Her Friday order stated that the redrawn map boosted the percentage of Black voters in south-central District 2 to 41.2%, an increase of about 10%. It also boosts the total minority voting age population to 54.2%, creating a “majority-minority district,” she said.

District 4, in Western Baltimore County, is a majority-Black district under both of the county maps.

Ericka McDonald, a co-president for the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, said Friday that the plaintiffs still were considering next steps, but said her group was “very disappointed in the ruling, which fails to give fair representation to Black residents of Baltimore County.”