Fletcher v. Lamone

Fletcher v. Lamone was the first case to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court that challenged a state law that ended prison-based gerrymandering. On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed a lower court's ruling, upholding Maryland's first-in-the-nation law requiring incarcerated people to be counted as residents of their home addresses for redistricting purposes. The law's passage in 2010 was a major civil rights victory.

Background

Fletcher v. Lamone was a partisan power grab under the guise of an African-American voting rights lawsuit. The goal of the Republican Party attorneys handling the case is to ensure the re-election of a GOP candidate in predominately white Western Maryland. The Republican lawyers' strategy is to make Marylanders believe that an important new civil rights law enacted specifically to protect African-American voting strength somehow instead dilutes the vote of African-Americans.

The 6th District in Western Maryland motivated this lawsuit because the state used its discretion to draw the new District 6 with very different boundaries than the old district.[1] Almost half (350,179) of the constituents in the new district previously lived in other districts. Plaintiff's attorneys, provided by the Republican Party, do not raise these motivations or facts directly because the federal courts have made it clear that they will not consider claims of partisan gerrymandering. Instead, the Republican lawyers take aim at Maryland's landmark No Representation Without Population Act, which reallocated 6,754 people incarcerated in District 6 to their homes elsewhere. Their strategy is disingenuous. If the Court were to strike down the No Representation Without Population Act and to order redrawing of the Congressional plan, the result would still be a Democratic-leaning 6th district.

Moreover, the No Representation Without Population Act simply has nothing to do with the core issues in this case. The ability to create a third majority African American congressional district is not diminished in any way by allocating incarcerated persons to their home communities. In fact, the No Representation Without Population Act actually enhances the representation of most of the plaintiffs in the case, precisely because it properly credits the population of African-American communities.

The No Representation Without Population Act requires that incarcerated individuals be counted at their last known address for redistricting purposes. This is a change from previous practice, when prison populations were used to pad the populations of districts that contained prisons. That practice diluted the vote of every Maryland resident who did not live near the prison complex in western Maryland, and had a particularly negative effect on African-American communities who experience disproportionate rates of incarceration. Before the No Representation Without Population Act, the voting power of African-American communities was literally being siphoned off through the criminal justice system and redirected to primarily rural areas.

Maryland's civil rights community is united behind the No Representation Without Population Act, and believes that attacking it runs directly contrary to the goal of increased representation for Maryland's African-American community. According to their own court filings, all but one of the Plaintiffs live in districts that clearly benefit from the law. And if their lawsuit demanding that disproportionately African-American prisoners be used to pad the disproportionately white 6th district is sucessful, all nine African-American plaintiffs will see their votes and the votes of their communities diluted.

In December of 2011, a federal three-judge panel unanimously rejected the plaintiffs' challenges to the No Representation Without Population Act. The plaintiffs have appealed the federal panel's decision.

On June 25, 2012 the Supreme Court of the United States summarily affirmed the lower court's decision to uphold the No Representation Without Population Act.

Footnote:

[1] The current Republican-dominated district 6 starts in western Maryland and follows the Pennsylvania border to the Susquehanna River above Chesapeake Bay. The new district 6 starts in western Maryland but follows the Virginia border into suburban Montgomery County where it picks up more Democratic voters.

Amici and Counsel

The Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, Somerset County Branch of the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Prison Policy Initiative and Dēmos have filed a brief as amici, represented by The Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Prison Policy Initiative and Dēmos.


Press releases, news coverage & editorials

Other resources

  • Our Maryland campaign page for the No Representation Without Population Act including links to reports, fact sheets, testimony, press coverage and editorial support

Legal documents and related materials

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