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Rep. Edwards Doesn’t Support Redistricting Plan

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards said Tuesday she doesn’t support a redistricting plan in its current form because it doesn’t adequately represent minorities, and she said some of Montgomery County should be restored to her district under the plan.

The proposal would reduce the number of African-Americans who are eligible to vote in her 4th Congressional district by nearly 2 percent, the congresswoman said. It reduces that same population by 1 percent in the 5th Congressional district, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer. Edwards also said Maryland Democrats could still win a seat from Republicans without diluting the minority vote.

“I understand and share the political interests that are at stake, both nationally and in our state,” Edwards said. “Nonetheless, I cannot support this plan in its current form given that minority representation interests appear to have been sacrificed for these political interests.”

Two of Maryland’s eight representatives, Edwards and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, are African-American. Both are Democrats.

Edwards’ current district includes Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, where the number of eligible black voters has grown. But under the proposed redistricting map, Montgomery would be moved entirely out of the district. Edwards said that change would dilute the minority vote in Montgomery County.

“Indeed, under the advisory panel plan, each minority group that experienced an increase in population is effectively being split among the three new districts in Montgomery County, making them statistical minority groups in those districts in a majority-minority county,” Edwards said.

Edwards said she is confident O’Malley, a Democrat, can make substantial changes to the proposal before he submits the plan to the General Assembly for a special session scheduled to begin Monday.

Edwards met with O’Malley on Monday in Annapolis to express her concerns.

“I’m waiting for a response from the governor,” Edwards said Tuesday afternoon.

A public comment period on the draft plan ends Tuesday.

The proposal made public last week moves a large portion of Montgomery County into the 6th Congressional district in western Maryland, a seat held by Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett since 1993. The change would make Bartlett’s seat more competitive for a Democrat. Bartlett also has expressed concerns about whether the proposed map adequately represents minorities, as well as residents in rural areas.

Maryland has two Republican representatives, Bartlett and Rep. Andy Harris, who represents the 1st Congressional district that includes the Eastern Shore.

Edwards said she believes Maryland Democrats could both achieve the goal of winning a seventh Democratic district and preserve the right minority representation by keeping a portion of Montgomery County in her district, specifically the Silver Spring area.

“I think that that is a way that you can accomplish the twin goals there,” Edwards said.

Maryland’s congressional districts and its legislative districts in the General Assembly are being redrawn based on the results of the 2010 census. State legislative redistricting will be taken up when lawmakers gather for their regular 90-day session in January.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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