The state's highest court said yesterday that the one-person, one-vote rule does not apply to the voting policies that maintain Democrats' control of the Anne Arundel County state legislative delegation until 2006.
The Court of Appeals' explanation comes nearly a year after it ruled against Republicans in March, ending a three-month political power struggle within the delegation.
In December 2002, just weeks after the general election, the Democrat-controlled delegation changed its voting rules. At a meeting that included two Democrats who had been defeated in the November 2002 election, the delegation approved giving one vote to each of three Prince George's County delegates whose district includes a sliver of Anne Arundel County. That gave Democrats an 8-7 majority on the delegation.
Before the election, the delegation had agreed that the three Prince George's delegates would have one collective vote. But as the election turned out, that system would have given Republicans the majority - and control of the new delegation.
Republicans sued, contending that Democrats had illegally offset their election losses.
When the case was argued, Republicans said that if one man, one vote was applied, the Prince George's delegates would not be entitled to the same voting power as the delegates whose districts are solely in the county. The three delegates based in Prince George's represent a small number of Anne Arundel residents.
In a 21-page opinion, the court said that the role of the delegation is to "refer and recommend" state legislation. That is not enough to invoke the one-person, one-vote standard, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell wrote for the unanimous seven-judge court.
The court "usurped the will of the people," Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., one of the Republicans who sued, said yesterday.
Sun staff writer Ryan Davis contributed to this article.