NAACP, ACLU back prisoner-count law
The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP have weighed in on the side of the state of Maryland in opposing a challenge to Gov. Martin O'Malley's congressional redistricting plan based on how prisoners are counted in apportioning population to electoral districts.
The groups, along with Howard University's School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, filed a "friend of the court" brief in the redistricting lawsuit now before the U.S. District Court arguing that the General Assembly got it just right when it passed a law in 2010 providing that incarcerated people should be counted as living in their home jurisdictions rather than in the communities where the prisons are located.
A challenge to that law, the No Representation Without Population Act, is part of the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee's attack on the redistricting plan recently adopted by the legislature for use in the 2012 election. The map was crafted to give the state's dominant Democrats a good shot at picking up a seventh seat in the eight-member House delegation.
The ACLU -- along with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the state NAACP council -- contends the legislature corrected a past practice that artificially inflated the population of the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland counties where Maryland has its largest prison complexes at the expense of heavily African-American juisdictions such as Baltimore.
As an example of how prison populations can skew elections, the brief points to a council district in Somerset County where the inclusion of prisoners at the Eastern Correctional Institution gives the residents of that district 2.7 times the voting strength as residents of other districts. The Somerset County NAACP is one of the groups behind the brief.
The authors of the brief say they aren't taking a position on the lawsuit's allegations of partisan gerrymandering. But they urged the court to deny the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction based on the challenge to the population law.