Town of Federalsburg sued for voting discrimination, 30 days to respond

FEDERALSBURGH, Md. – The Town of Federalsburg is now being sued, it’s an ongoing issue surrounding voting discrimination.
And advocates are now calling for change

The current at-large voting system is being called to an end. Advocates say this is a call for equal representation, but in order to have a voice, you have to have a seat at the table.

“We’re looking forward to our day in court and we believe we will be victorious,” says Carl Snowden.

Carl Snowden with the Caucus of African American Leaders, along with the Caroline County NAACP, and 7 Black voters are suing the Town of Federalsburg. The town celebrating 200 years has never had a black person in the office, advocates say that’s because of the current voting system, which violates the federal voting rights act of 1965. “Section 2 prohibits any voting law or practice that results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color,” says Nick Steiner, a Staff Attorney for the ACLU. “Many of the towns and cities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore have what is called at-large voting systems, which simply meant people did not vote by wards or legislative districts, they voted at large,” Snowden adds.

The plaintiffs represented by the ACLU would like to see a vote by district system. The Town of Federalsburg issued a statement saying:

“The Town of Federalsburg received the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief filed by the Caroline County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Caucus of African American Leaders, and residents of Federalsburg late yesterday afternoon. The Town is still reviewing the Complaint and is not ready to discuss the allegations at this time. However, the Town remains committed to ensuring the Town’s election system is fair to all and have already taken measures to implement changes.  The Town invites the Plaintiffs to work with them in this endeavor despite the filing of the Complaint.”

Snowden says this lawsuit will cost the residents of Federalsburg. “Federalsburg is required to do is pay the attorney fees of the winning side, and should the ACLU and the other lawyers prevail, it will be paid by the taxpayers of Federalsburg. A payment that could have been avoided if they had been willing to negotiate, rather than litigate,” says Snowden.

The ACLU says the town was already made aware of the complaint in October 2022, but change needs to be made for equal access to a town seat. “In order to have a voice at the table, they need to have an equal vote, if they don’t have an equal vote then the issues they’ve had to deal with for decades will continue to go unaddressed,” says Steiner.

The next step for litigation is for the town to respond to the complaint. They can do that by answering the complaint or motioning to dismiss. The town of Federalsburg has 21 days to respond.

April 3, 2023, is the next public hearing on the three proposed resolutions to change the town’s charter.

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