As Maryland prepares to draw new political district lines, the state is facing a thorny question: Should its priority be to ensure better representation for African-Americans, who comprise 30 percent of its population, or to preserve the electability of white incumbents who hold powerful positions in Congress?
Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus is pushing for a map that would protect incumbents’ districts while “preserving and strengthening” the two congressional districts represented by African-American lawmakers Donna Edwards and Elijah Cummings. However, a grassroots organization, the Fannie Lou Hammer Political Action Committee, is proposing a map that would help elect a third Black congressional representative but also put at risk the seat held by Rep. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, and other Democratic incumbents, The Washington Post reports. Hoyer, a white man, represents a district that includes parts of Prince George’s County, one of the nation’s most affluent African-American communities, and he is widely viewed to have served its residents well.
“The goal is not to upend Steny Hoyer or any other politician. If they get re-elected, that’s great,” Trevor Otts, the group’s co-chairman, told the Post. “To do what’s fair, you can’t put who’s getting elected first. If you look at our history, especially in Maryland, we have been drawing [districts] to make sure incumbents get reelected. Whether or not that process harms the community is not something we’ve adequately considered.”
When asked how redistricting could affect his district, Hoyer responded that he is “honored to represent all residents of his district and will continue discussing redistricting with state lawmakers ‘to determine how we can best serve the people of Maryland,’” according to the Post report. Cummings told BET.com that the delegation has agreed to not take public stands on the matter at this stage of the process.
Maryland has the nation’s fourth-highest percentage of African-Americans, after Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia. The Hammer PAC says that if district lines are not redrawn to reflect the state’s minority voting power, it will challenge the map in court.
(Photo: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post/Getty Images)