Federalsburg considers redistricting after concerns are raised over voting discrimination
FEDERALSBURG, Md. – Federalsburg officials are planning to make some changes to their election system after concerns were raised that it is racially discriminatory. Monday night, Mayor Kimberly Abner, the town’s council, the ACLU of Maryland, Caucus of African American Leaders (CAAL), and NAACP of Caroline County met to discuss possible solutions.
At Large Versus Single Member Districts
Currently, Federalsburg elections run on an at large system. Those elected represented the entire municipality, as opposed to representing a district within the town. In 1967, Congress banned at large systems on the federal level, citing concerns that at large elections dilute the power of minority votes.
“What the courts have found, is that if you have, as you do in Federalsburg, a large African American population, districts should be set up so they can have an opportunity to serve on those councils,” said CAAL Convener Carl Snowden. “[Federalsburg] has never held an elected official of color. I think the courts would very quickly conclude that it is a discriminatory system.”
Snowden says single member districts will give people of color in Federalsburg a more equitable shot at making their voices heard.
“What single member districts do is they give African Americans a better opportunity to be elected. It doesn’t guarantee they’ll be elected, it’s just a better opportunity,” said Snowden. “Government works best when all voices are at the table, when everybody has the opportunity to have a seat at the table of power. In Federalsburg, for far too long, the residents who happen to be people of color did not have a seat at the table.”
During Monday’s meeting, Bill Cooper, a demographic and redistricting expert, presented two proposed election district maps for Federalsburg. One option would create two districts, and the other would create four.
“Each of those were based on guidelines that help to allow for greater strength and the reduction, in terms of dilution, of the power of the vote,” said President of the NAACP of Caroline County Dr. Willie Woods. “Voting rights and election systems are so very important as we look at our representative government, and our society. We take very seriously every opportunity to help ensure and protect those opportunities for our residents.”
In a statement to 47 ABC, Mayor Abner says she and the Council intend to hold public hearings on where district lines should be drawn. They are seeking public input on the preferred number of districts, as well, said Mayor Abner. After feedback is received, Mayor Abner says she and the Council will present multiple options, and plan to hold a public hearing on January 23rd, 2023.
Dr. Woods says she was pleased to see the close attention Mayor Abner and Council members paid to the issue during Monday’s meeting.
“The mayor and members of the council were quite attentive, and listened carefully to the information presented, and the testimony of various residents of the community as they shared their perceptions,” said Dr. Woods.
Snowden echoed Dr. Woods’ praise, and believes a solution will be reached in the near future as a result of the cooperation.
“I think the town of Federalsburg is to be given credit. They’ve been very cooperative, they’ve worked with the ACLU, they’ve worked with CAAL, they’ve worked with the NAACP,” said Snowden.
Mayor Abner pledges to carry out the process quickly, and with due diligence. Her statement also read in part, “Given the issues raised, the Mayor and Council are moving as expeditiously as possible, while ensuring that the end result is fair to, and in the best interest of the citizens of Federalsburg. All participation is strongly encouraged.”