Under the proposal, Democrats would stand a fighting chance of winning Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett’s (R) 6th District, which would lose much of Frederick County to Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D) 8th District and take on a slice of western Montgomery County in return. That could give Democrats a 7 to 1 edge in the state delegation.
But the plan would also take away the portion of Montgomery that Edwards represents, stretching her 4th District from Prince George’s into Anne Arundel County instead. Rep. John Sarbanes’s (D) 3rd District would also take a portion of Montgomery.
The result, Edwards said Tuesday, would be that Montgomery — a county where minorities make up the majority, according to 2010 Census data — would be splintered into three districts, all likely represented by white men.
“I have been one of the strongest proponents as a Democrat of drawing a seventh district for Democrats,” Edwards said in an interview Tuesday. “But we can accomplish that in a different way. . . . Where I have a real disagreement is in making superior the political interests to the minority voting rights interests.”
The criticism expressed by Edwards and some in Montgomery, however, was not shared by all African Americans, and some with knowledge of the negotiations over the map questioned Edwards’s motives, saying she seemed primarily focused on maintaining a district that would best help her win reelection.
Del. Melony G. Griffith (D), chairwoman of the Prince George’s delegation in the House of Delegates, questioned the logic that Montgomery couldn’t or wouldn’t elect an African American given that it has a black county executive and council chairman.
The new map, Edwards said, would reduce the black voting-age population in her district by nearly 2 percent and would cut the percentage of minorities in Van Hollen’s district by a much larger amount.
“It’s difficult for me to understand how given that growth you’d see a reduction in the percentages in minority populations in each congressional district,” Edwards said.
At a news conference in Rockville on Tuesday, a score of state and Montgomery officials said they would urge O’Malley to scrap the proposed map. If he doesn’t, the state NAACP will probably sue the state, said Elbridge James, a state NAACP official.
“The NAACP is hoping — and that is a very loose word, hoping — that the governor . . . [will] move off of this map to something that . . . won’t be open to court challenge before Monday’s session,” he said.
The officials, who were mostly minority, said the map would dilute minority voting power and violate the federal Voting Rights Act. “This really does disembowel Montgomery County in terms of communities of interest,” said County Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large).