The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County urges county residents to speak about redistricting at a virtual public hearing on Tuesday Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. (speakers must register between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/COUNTYCOUNCIL/VIRTUALMEETINGS.HTML). I would also like to respond to The Baltimore Sun’s editorial concerning the fight over the proposed Baltimore County redistricting plan (”Baltimore County needs diverse leadership, but redistricting is an uncertain tool for achieving it,” Oct. 13).
The editorial begins by asserting that the “case for greater racial diversity on the Baltimore County Council is ironclad,” but then proceeds to warn against creating more majority-minority districts. The arguments miss the key points that representation of racial and linguistic minorities is essential for democracy, as is the need for a transparent redistricting process.
It criticizes the advocates speaking out for fair representation, but offers no solutions. This is a tactic long used to justify systemic inequality — that it’s unfortunate, but it isn’t the right time to fix it ― and it glosses over the very real impact the proposed plan will have on people of color in our community.
The first argument is that creating multiple majority-minority districts might weaken the Democrats’ majority on the Baltimore County Council. “If the goal of diversity is to create a council more sympathetic to the needs of people of color,” then the status quo might be safer. But the actual goal is to give people of color an equal voice in their government as guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act.
Additionally, packing the majority of the Black population of Baltimore County into a single district is illegal. The dense population of people of color in District 4 is a consequence of decades of racist redlining practices. Arguing that compactness and contiguity trump racial representation when drawing districts is tantamount to a continuation of these practices.
The second argument is that the alternative NAACP/ACLU and Indivisible Towson maps are examples of gerrymandering because they are not compact or contiguous. This is flawed logic, because gerrymandering is drawing districts for political advantage, not to create districts that reflect the racial diversity of the county.
The redistricting commission’s report stated redrawing the districts was impossible because it would split communities. Assuming that all Black residents in District 4 are a single community of interest is inaccurate. The constituents of Baltimore County have not been given the opportunity to determine if alternative maps reflect their communities.
There has been a troubling lack of transparency in the redistricting process. The Council has yet to disclose their process for considering the redistricting proposal and the Oct. 26 public hearing was announced in an obscure publication only one week before the meeting.
The Council should hold multiple, well-publicized hearings to enable broad participation in this process which will have impacts on racial equality in Baltimore County for the next decade.
Ericka McDonald, Catonsville
The writer is co-president of the League of Women Voters, Baltimore County.
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