Premier Voting and Civil Rights Experts Detail Minority Vote Dilution, Racially Polarized Voting, History of Racial Exclusion and Segregation
BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD – Late Wednesday, Black voters and civil rights organizations filed papers urging United Sates District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby to issue an injunction overturning Baltimore County’s racially discriminatory redistricting plan and requiring the County to reconfigure its election system in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Arguing powerfully for why the plan should be blocked, the filing includes comprehensive expert analyses and maps from some of the nation’s top voting rights experts, an influential author and researcher on the racialized history of the Baltimore region, and a former NAACP president who has strongly advocated for civil rights in Baltimore County for over two decades. They explain how the County Council’s dilution of Black voters would illegally allow white voters, who make up barely half of the County’s population and will soon be a minority, to control six of the council’s seven seats for the next decade.
The filing begins:
This case calls for a straightforward, yet urgent and critically important, application of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Baltimore County’s burgeoning Black population (now 32 percent of the County’s overall population) and its Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) population (now 48 percent of the total) are sufficiently large and geographically compact to easily establish two majority-Black districts among the seven County Council districts, as well as a third “influence” district with population divided equally between white and BIPOC voters. Absent creation of these districts, racial polarization among voters will enable the white majority to override the will of minority voters and maintain Baltimore County’s nearly all-white government by diluting the influence of Black and BIPOC voters, discouraging Black candidacies, and preventing residents of color from electing their chosen representatives. . . . This is precisely the scenario Section 2 was intended to remedy.
The filing is supported by a declaration by Matthew Barreto, Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a premier national expert on voting rights and redistricting who has testified in more than three dozen federal voting rights cases, and worked with scores of civil rights groups and governmental agencies, including the State of Maryland. That declaration analyzes how elections in Baltimore County that featured Black candidates challenging white candidates have been characterized by striking racial polarization in voting. Baretto worked with Dr. Kassra Oskooii, Professor of Political Science at the University of Delaware, on the analysis, conclusively finding:
Black voters demonstrated strong cohesion, voting in strong support for Black candidates. This trend was apparent in both primary and general election contests among voters in Baltimore County. White voters voted as a bloc against Black-preferred candidates.
The filing also includes maps and vote dilution analysis by William S. Cooper, one of the country’s leading demographers, with more than three decades of experience advising civil rights plaintiffs and government agencies – again including the State of Maryland – on creating redistricting plans that comply with the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Federal courts across the country have relied on Cooper’s analyses and plans in dozens of cases, including in an Eastern Shore voting rights case in which Maryland’s federal court used Cooper’s analysis to strike down as racially discriminatory Worcester County’s election system. Cooper provided Baltimore County with five separate plans that would comply with the Voting Rights Act, each of which the County rejected without justification.
Also supporting the plaintiffs is a declaration by Dr. Lawrence T. Brown, Community Research Scientist at the Center for Urban Health Equity at Morgan State University and author of the “The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America,” describing Baltimore County’s extensive history of excluding Black people from housing and seeking to exclude them from the County entirely. Dr. Brown summarizes the County’s shameful history of discriminating against Black residents and their communities, not only in housing but also in the areas of education, infrastructure, government services, government employment, and police violence. This history has resulted in Baltimore County being the most segregated major county in Maryland and one of the most hypersegregated metropolitan areas in the country.
Additionally, a declaration by Anthony Fugett, one of the individual plaintiffs and former president of the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP, who led the organization from 2000 through 2021, describes the County’s long record of discriminatory actions to maintain its nearly all white government, leading up to the current redistricting plan. Fugett’s testimony tells the story of how, over time, the County has used its power to maintain white majorities, to discourage Black candidates from running for office, and to defeat the few Black candidates who have sought office in majority-white areas. He laments that, notwithstanding enormous public outcry throughout the 2021 redistricting process, this historical pattern was continued, necessitating the NAACP court action:
At the end of the process, the County Council adopted, by unanimous vote, a blatantly unfair and discriminatory plan that maintains for the next decade an election system that will prevent election of Black candidates or other candidates of color in six of the seven Council districts, while packing a huge percentage of Black voters into a single super-majority-Black district. There could be no better example of the disrespect for Black voices, and the unresponsiveness to community concerns with which Baltimore County officials too often conduct themselves.
The federal court lawsuit challenging Baltimore County’s unlawful redistricting plan was brought by seven individual voters – Charles Sydnor, Anthony Fugett, Dana Vickers Shelley, Danita Tolson, Sharon Blake, Gerald Morrison, and Niesha McCoy – and the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, and Common Cause – Maryland.
Plaintiffs are represented by Andrew D. Freeman of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, John A. Freedman, Mark D. Colley, Michael Mazullo, and Youlia Racheva of Arnold & Porter, and ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon and Staff Attorney Tierney Peprah.