Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Mattingly this week ordered the city of College park to reapportion its councilmanic districts and include all on-campus registered students of the University of Maryland in the apportionment base population.
Mattingly also put off until later in the week a decision on whether to grant an injunction halting next Tuesday's College Park elections.
Both city officials and Kenneth Lechter, the attorney for three students bringing the suit, called the decision a victory.
The court ruled that College Park is not required to include all on-campus students in its apportionment scheme, but added that "only those who are presumed transients situated in the academic enclave may be excluded from the population count."
"Many on campus students have by their registration in College Park, overcome the presumption of transience under Maryland laws," it states. The court estimated that between 100 and 300 on-campus students are registered to vote in city elections and may be included in the 17,517 population base of College Park residents.
Three University of Maryland students - Renee Dubois, Zachary Kinney and Dave Johnson - brought suit against the city of College Park two years ago saying the city has not included 8,000 on-campus students in the city's eight voting districts.
Mattingly had originally heard the case a year ago but it was returned to his court in June after the Maryland Special Court of Appeals reversed his earlier decision. At that time he denied the suit on ground s that the plaintiffs were "not bona fide" city residents and therefore did not have the right to sue.
In his ruling, Mattingly exceeded the question of student representation and said that the councilmanic districts as a whole were malapportioned.
At the hearing of the suit, Lechter said, "If the students living off-campus are included in the apportionment, then on-campus students who are registered to vote should be included in the district apportionment as well."
College Park officials said they felt the ruling was a victory "because they did not have to include all 8,000 students in the apportionment." It is the city's contention that the students are not interested in the city business, which they say, is primarily trash collection and street lighting.
Elections for eight council members and an at-large mayor are scheduled for Tuesday. Lechter has already filed an injunction to halt the election until a reapportionment plan is approved but Mattingly has not yet ruled on it.
City officials said it would cost the city at least $3,500 if the elections were delayed.