Politics

Official Behind Gerrymandered Democrat Maps Was Previously Accused Of Discrimination Against Black Staffers

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Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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The top official on the panel responsible for drawing Maryland’s new Congressional maps was once accused by state Democrats of racial discrimination.

Karl Aro, the chair of the state’s Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee (LRAC), is in charge of the seven-member panel that submitted highly-gerrymandered maps in favor of Democrats to state lawmakers for approval in November. He was also accused in 2004 by a Democratic lawmaker of not doing enough to hire and retain African-American employees when he ran the Department of Legislative Services (DLS).

Democratic Baltimore Delegate Tony E. Fulton called for Aro to resign at the time in a letter sent to Maryland’s House Speaker and Senate President, the Baltimore Sun reported in 2004. While Fulton wrote the letter alone, the issue of diversity in the DLS had been a longstanding issue for some black lawmakers and members of the Legislative Black Caucus, according to the Sun.

“African-American staff members generally have short tenures, and are deprived of incentives including promotion and management level positions,” Fulton wrote. “I call for the resignation of Karl Aro, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services, and respectfully ask that he be replaced with an advocate for equal opportunity in the workplace.”

Aro did not resign, ultimately retiring from his position in 2015. Now, he’s chairing the effort to create a 7-1 Congressional map in favor of Democrats in the state of Maryland, with sole Republican Rep. Andy Harris’ seat in jeopardy as well.

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan commissioned nonpartisan maps that were determined to be significant more balanced by independent experts, but Maryland legislators voted to proceed with the gerrymandered LRAC maps. Hogan has sworn he will veto any gerrymandered maps, but Democrats have supermajorities that could override a veto in both legislative chambers. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Larry Hogan Backers Go After Democrats For ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering)

Fair Maps Maryland, an independent, non-profit group dedicated to ending partisan gerrymandering in the state, has announced a lawsuit aimed at stopping the gerrymandered maps from going into effect for 2022.

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice recently announced a lawsuit against the state of Texas for allegedly diluting the votes of minority residents in newly-proposed Congressional maps. Attorney General Merrick Garland has made no effort to address the issue of gerrymandering in many blue states such as Maryland.

Maryland’s Legislative Redistricting Advisory Committee did not respond at the time of publication.