By Ericka McDonald and Tana R. Hamilton.
The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County calls for the creation of a new map that fully considers the rights of people of color and the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. We believe that the current plan unlawfully dilutes the votes of minority residents.
Because of the long history of racial inequality in representation in Baltimore County, it is imperative that race be considered in the drawing of the County Council districts. The standards on which a redistricting plan is based must have substantially equal population and be compact and contiguous, as well as effective representation of racial and linguistic minorities.
The plan approved by the commission would create a single minority-majority district and six majority white districts despite the county’s 47% people of color. The proposed plan considers some aspects of race, but misses the broader issue, which is the importance of effective representation.
It states that the long standing problem of electing minority representatives is the problem of the people – parties must “run electable candidates” – instead of recognizing that it is the legal responsibility of the county council to create districts that give people of color equal representation. The plan misses the very real challenge of systemic inequality faced by racial minorities in Baltimore County.
Since the creation of District 4 in 2001, Black candidates have been elected in all 5 cycles. Creation of another majority-minority district would have a real impact on the lives of the county’s minority residents, and a real impact on issues of racial inequity: transportation, education, police reform, affordable housing, etc.
The many alternative maps put forth by Baltimore County groups demonstrate that it is possible to draw a map that gives people of color a real voice in their government. We believe it is time for change. We ask the County Council to create a new map and include the people of Baltimore County in future hearings to enable their participation. Thank you.
This evening others have spoken on the specifics of this redistricting plan, but I’d like to focus on the vision. I am co-president of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County and a resident of District 3. I am also the mother of multiracial children.
I moved to Baltimore County from Louisiana because I was impressed with the forward-thinking leadership and the quality of the school system. I wanted my children to have better opportunities. The Baltimore County Master Plan 2030 boasts of Equity, Sustainability, and Vibrant Communities in its tagline. It defines EQUITY as being inclusive in our decision-making, ensuring equitable distribution of resources, and creating opportunity for all. These are the stated goals of the master plan.
Democracy matters, especially at the local level. Without fair and equitable representation, we are complicit in continuing systemic racism and limiting the participation of people of color and their opportunities for leadership. I urge the County Council to draw a new map with the primary regard of serving the people, not retaining outdated power structures. Create a Baltimore County where there are more opportunities for my children and all people of color to serve. Baltimore County needs at least TWO majority-minority councilmanic districts. Thank you.
–Tana R. Hamilton
Ericka McDonald and Tana R. Hamilton are co-presidents of LWV of Baltimore County. They gave the above testimony at the Baltimore County Redistricting Public Hearing on October 26th, 2021.