From Wendy Sawyer, Chair of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee:
To my Democratic friends:
I am sending this email in case some of you did not get it from another source.
Last night at the County Council meeting I spoke to the Council about their intention to not appoint any Democrats to the important redistricting commission. I am attaching my comments which should explain where we are at this point. The Redistricting Commission is the entity that reviews the district lines for voting for county council. If the Republicans have their way, there will be such gerrymandering it will be even more difficult to get Democrats elected. We must stop them now!
The Central Committee has obtained top notch legal counsel through the State Party and Gus Brown, Esquire in Bel Air to fight the Republicans and try to force them to appoint Democrats. We do not expect they will do it voluntarily, but they have to do it next Tuesday night at their meeting. We want everyone to know what they are up to and the legal shenanigans they are playing to keep us out. Imagine the lines if Republicans are the only ones with any input!!
If, after next week’s meeting, they do not appoint any Democrats, our attorneys are going to file suit requesting an injunction to stop the commission from doing any business until Democrats are included in the process. We intend to make sure everyone in this County sees the arrogance of the Republicans. And we need your help.
Please, please, please, write letters to the Aegis complaining about this. But most importantly, please try to attend the Council meeting next week, Tuesday, February 15, 2011. It starts at 7:30 pm and is held in the Roberty Bulding, across the street from the municipal garage, behind the sheriff’s office.
Thanks for your help, and if you want to talk more about this, just call me.
Here are Sawyer’s comments to the Harford County Council:
Comments to Harford County Council
February 7, 2011
My name is Wendy Sawyer, and I am the Chair of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. I appreciate the time you have allowed me to speak to you this evening.
I would like to urge the County Council to reconsider your position that you intend to create a redistricting commission comprised of all Republicans to draw the boundaries for council districts in the County, and to block any participation in the process by the Democratic Party.
I have received two letters from Barbara O’Connor, Council Administrator, advising that the County Council has taken the position that no Democratic Party members will be permitted to participate in the redistricting process.
You have based your decision on a portion of the County Charter which states that the Council shall choose two names from each Central Committee which “polled more than 15% of the total votes cast for county council”. We disagree with that position and urge you to reconsider and take into account the following:
1. The County Charter was formed at a time when all Council members were elected at large. Since that time, Harford County voters chose to have in-district elections for council members. Only the President now runs at large. This drastically changed the mathematical premise under which the Charter was written. It was the responsibility of the County Council to review its Charter after in-district elections began and amended it to reflect how elections are currently held.
In the past, there was a Charter Review Board. If such a board is an ongoing one, they have utterly failed to ensure that our County Charter remains in line with constitutional guidelines. If there is no Charter Review Board in place at the present time, this situation clearly demonstrates the reason there should be one.
2. The clear intent of that Charter provision is to prevent “fringe parties” from participating in this important political process. Your stated position that the Democratic Party in Harford County will not be considered by you for this commission violates that intent, and is wrong as a matter of law.
As of the 2010 election, there were 41.6% active registered Democrats, and 42.3% Republicans. That is a difference of less than 1%. Under no reasonable definition does 41.6% of the registered voters constitute a fringe party.
Any redistricting plan this Council puts in place that is based on or influenced by a recommendation of a committee from which all members of the Democratic Party have been systematically excluded will clearly be vulnerable to a charge of unconstitutional gerrymandering.
Prince George’s County has a very different scenario. Republicans only make up 9% of the total active registered voters there. In fact, the undeclared registered voters outnumber them with 13%. In Prince George’s County, the Republican Party is a fringe party.
I would respectfully urge this Council to select two names from the list of five names that was provided to you and appoint them to the redistricting commission. In the event the Council fails to do this, we intend to seek all legal remedies to prevent the commission from doing any business until Democratic members are permitted to participate.
The Democratic Central Committee has an obligation not only to the 41.6% of Democratic citizens, but to all citizens in this county, Democrat, Republican, or unaffiliated, who expect our government to be fair in such an important political process.
When one political party makes all the decisions, it loses its credibility.
Thank you for your time this evening.