The Maryland Senate gave tentative approval to the D. C. voting rights amendment yesterday, but the stumbling ratification drive suffered setbacks in South Carolina and New York.
In Annapolis, the Senate voted 27 to 16 to move the resolution to a final vote after rejecting delaying tactics by opponents.
"This vote was the ball game," said Sen. Edward T. Conroy (D-Prince George's). I don't think there's anything the opponents can do to slow us down now."
The Maryland House of Delegates gave tentative approval to the measure Wednesday without debate but supporters concede that antiamendment sentiment is becoming more pronounced in that chamber, leaving the outcome in doubt.
In South Carolina, the House voted 63 to 51 yesterday not to reconsider Wednesday's action that "continued" consideration of the amendment until the next session. The Wednesday vote, initiated by opponents, was 55 to 54 in favor of delay.
In New York, Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson (R-Binghamton) announced his opposition, saying he "would sooner see Washington become a part of Maryland or Virginia" than get its own two senators and one or two House members.
Anderson's statement put ratification in doubt in Albany, where the Democratic-controlled House had approved the resolution earlier this month by a vote of 79 to 64.
Three states, New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan, have ratified the amendment. In addition to South Carolina, legislatures in Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Wyoming have voted against the resolution.
In a survey of the 50 states in September, The Washington Post listed 18 states, including Pennsylvania. South Carolina and New York, as most likely to approve the amendment.
Maryland had been listed as uncertain.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy said the vote in Annapolis "confirms my feeling that fair-minded legislators, given the opportunity to thoroughly consider the merits, will come to the same conclusion" as the U.S. Congress, which sent the resolution to the states for ratification in August.
Fauntroy noted that Conroy, who became the floor leader in behalf of the amendment, originally opposed ratification.
"Therefore, I'm not disappointed" with what Fauntroy called the "deferral" of action in Columbia or Anderson's statement in Albany.
Conroy had watched nervously all week as opponents expertly manipulated the Senate rules to delay the vote as long as possible. After successfully stalling the vote for three days, opponents attempted yesterday to put it off two more years by reviving a measure that would send the question to Maryland voters in a 1980 straw ballot. But that idea failed by a vote of 31 to 16.
Sen. Clarence Mitchell III of Baltimore, chief sponsor of the amendment in the Senate, predicted that delaying tactics in the House would fail just as they did in the Senate.
"It's pretty clear by today's vote that the minds have been made up and no amount of lobbying is going to change it," Mitchell said.
The Senate was so worn out by the week-long filibuster that only two senators got up to speak before the key vote: Sen. Howard A. Denis (R-Montgomery) for the opposition and Sen. Robert Douglass (D-Baltimore City) for the proponents.
The South Carolina action had the effect of killing the resolution until 1981, according to Rep. Norma Russell (R-Lexington County), an opponent. The sponsor, Rep. Theo W. Mitchell (D-Greenville), disagreed with that assessment, however, and vowed to introduce the resolution again next year.
"The fight is not over," said Mitchell, chairman of the 13-member black caucus in the South Carolina House.
Richard Clark, the Common Cause lobbyist who is a leader in the ratification drive, said supporters have their eye on two other Southern states as a possible breakthrough for ratification, but he declined to identify them for fear that the well organized opposition "would key in on them."
In Albany, Anderson's opposition makes ratification there unlikely, according to the majority leader's press aide, Dick Roth. The GOP controls the Senate there 35 to 25.
Roth said Anderson announced his opposition in answer to a question posed by a member of the League of Women Voters. "It just doesn't set my feet dancing" is how Anderson phrased his view.