Chestertown’s election map currently violates the constitutional mandate of “one person, one vote.” The voters of Ward 3 still have half the voting power of the other wards by as much as a 2-1 disadvantage. This means that a vote in Ward 3 is worth about half as much as the other wards.
With the next election for Chestertown’s mayor and Wards 1 and 3 only 10 months away, the town council has still failed to adopt an election district map that complies with either the 2000 or 2010 census data.
Once again, the Kent Pilot encourages the town council to take immediate action to address this serious issue. Voters and potential candidates should be concerned that their elected leaders have chosen to slow-walk this constitutional correction.
Why would you wait? Why not establish the districts so that the citizens can actually evaluate their ward and start to contemplate whether they should run?
The ACLU proposed a map in January 2020, a year ago, using 2010 census data that would address the current illegally lopsided districts with legally apportioned districts. The ACLU also suggested the map would promote greater opportunities for minority residents to get elected.
The latest excuse for inaction is the suggestion that the redistricting should wait until the 2020 census data is released. That makes no sense whatsoever. By statute, the census apportionment data will not be delivered to the President until April and to the states on July 1. The Maryland Department of Planning will still need to process the data and apply it to Maryland’s jurisdictions. This could take months and butt up to the election allowing little time for the committee and voters to assess the voting districts.
More important, the 2020 census data is not relevant to addressing the current problem. It is the wrong data set to address two census cycles of ignoring the Voting Rights Act. If Ward 3 residents went to federal court today to redress their ongoing injury, a judge would be hard pressed not to enjoin and order the town council to adopt a map based on the 2010 census data, as the ACLU has suggested, along with attorney’s fees.
This issue is not a surprise. The injury mounts every day. Delay serves no discernable public purpose.
The Kent Pilot