Advocates voices concerns over Federalsburg election system, push for equal representation

FEDERALSBURG, Md. – “It would just mean so much for someone to be in a position of power who was like me. Right now, there is no one here like me,” Resident Lywanda Johnson said.

The Maryland ACLU says they’re looking to dismantle a 200-year-old system they say is rooted in discrimination. In Federalsburg’s 200-year history, no person of color has held office in the town’s government.

Tuesday, The Maryland ACLU held a press conference alongside other advocates and Federalsburg residents on the town’s current at-large election system. “Being what the Federal Voting Rights act of 1965 describes as a racially discriminatory and unlawful election system,” Woods said.

Several residents spoke on their personal experiences, including attempts at running for office to no avail and the need for equal representation. “It is because of the vices and the way that the election system is set up that we have not been allowed the opportunity to come forward and elect those who represent our sections, views, and our values,” Sherone Lewis said.

Caroline County NAACP President Willie Woods says the time for change is now as the Federalsburg population continues to grow and becomes more diverse. “Now having a population of approximately 47% of the town being black and combining other people color, that percentage is roughly 53%,” Woods said.

And with a lawsuit against the town pending, Carl Snowden with the Caucus of African American Leaders says he hopes town officials choose negotiation instead of litigation. “The reality is that the Federalsburg system will change, it’s a question of how expensive they will make that change,” Snowden said.

We reached out to Federalsburg Mayor Kim Abner for comment. She sent a statement that reads:

“The town recognizes the concerns raised by the black community and is in the process of a comprehensive election reform which would establish two election districts with two council members in each. We encourage public participation in the upcoming hearing and at all Town Council meetings.”

Last month, advocates and residents filed a lawsuit against the town hoping for change ahead of the upcoming town election this September.

The plaintiffs represented by the ACLU (Caroline County NAACP, Caucus of African American Leaders, and several black Federalsburg voters) would like to see a vote by district system.

The Caucus of African American Leaders says Federalsburg can’t afford to get into a long legal battle, adding if that happens it will come at the expense of taxpayers.

The next public hearing on the proposed resolution to change the towns charter is set for April 3rd.

Categories: Local News, Local Politics, Maryland