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November 10, 2011

Successful Challenges: Powerful Messages

Chris Cavey

Gov. Martin O'Malley's final plan for congressional redistricting is such an atrocity opponents will have two excellent avenues of challenge. The plan should be challenged in federal court under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and taken to the citizens in the form of referendum.


The pathway of challenge through the courts would be an interesting display of legal might with batteries of attorneys on either side arguing the minutia of equality and the juxtaposition of the Voting Rights act of 1965. In 2002 I participated in the successful challenge of the Glendenning Legislative redistricting map in the Maryland Court of Appeals. Similar army of attorneys – different topic.


This time, however, questions will be posed as to when a minority demographic reaches the super saturation point where it must become a majority within a specific geographic area. Does the creation of a majority-minority district support the act of gerrymandering and should all other demographic and geographic guidelines be thrown out the door solely for racial equality. Pretty heady stuff, right?


The court challenge would be costly, too. An army of experts does not come cheap. Republican members of Congress, the Republican Party, the Fanny Lou Hammer Coalition, and all other interested parties, collectively will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars working to prove their injury.


On the other side of the aisle the Maryland Attorney General's office will also have batteries of attorneys and will bring in experts for across the nation on the fine art of redistricting. The expense differential is this: the Attorney General's fees will not come from the map maker, Gov. Martin O'Malley, but from the citizens of Maryland. After all, it is our tax dollars which pay the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Attorney General, his minions and our governor.


So, a legal battle will cost the challengers twice... once in direct service fees and again in tax dollars.


The citizens simultaneously need to take up this challenge, sticking it directly into the eye of the map maker. The Maryland Constitution allows the citizens to petition to referendum any regular bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly. The governor's congressional redistricting bill falls into that category.


This past year the citizens of Maryland, under the leadership of Del. Neal Parrott (r., Washington) successfully presented enough verifiable signatures to petition the Dream Act to referendum. This legislation affords illegal immigrants the privilege of paying in-state tuition to Maryland colleges. Perhaps that undertaking of citizen defiance was to be only the first in a potential line of changes to be demanded of our governor and legislature? Perhaps now the heinously gerrymandered lines of the proposed congressional redistricting will be the next target of citizen outrage.


For untold years the Democrats have run roughshod over the voters in Maryland. Democrat leadership has accomplished whatever they wish whenever they wish by using the card of party politics as the final trump played – until this past year.


The Dream Act rankled the ire of the average citizen to the point they forgot about partisan politics and started thinking about themselves, their children and their futures. Thousands of petitions were signed and later verified. The citizen questioned the Democrat leadership and made them blink.


If, in fact, a second bill, such as the Governor's Congressional Redistricting Plan, carrying enormous political weight and magnitude, could be petitioned to the November 2012 ballot, it would certainly crown the voter as the constitutional king, teaching the lemming-like Democrat members of the legislature and the politically ambitious governor that Maryland's voters have an edge to their envelope of tolerance when it comes to being manipulated by the law.


Regardless of the cost of petitioning this bill to referendum, should the effort be successful, the benefit to the citizen will be huge. Maryland's voters will have demonstrated to the world that they can be lead down the partisan path of destruction only so far. It would be a historic turning point in Maryland's political world and creation of law.


If such an event were successful, Maryland's citizens would have rejected two signature pieces of legislature. If either, or both, were defeated by the voters, the message to Annapolis would be powerful and loud.


We can only hope.


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