A Racial Schism in Maryland Suburb

AP has an interesting piece about Greenbelt, Maryland, a suburb with a minority-dominated population -- but which has never elected a minority to the city ...
by | September 29, 2008

AP has an interesting piece about Greenbelt, Maryland, a suburb with a minority-dominated population -- but which has never elected a minority to the city council in its history.

In the racially diverse Washington suburb of Greenbelt, the term "progressive" is a badge of honor. But the city that began as a New Deal-era cooperative and overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama has never had a minority serve on its council in its 71-year history.

The gap has drawn the attention of the U.S. Justice Department and civil rights activists and is remarkable for Prince George's County, well known for its middle- and upper-middle-class black communities.

But even some residents who see a problem don't blame racism. Rather, they describe a chasm between the older, central Greenbelt, which is still mostly white and politically active, and the newer, outlying neighborhoods, where most of the city's minorities live and vote less often in city elections.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the county NAACP suggest that Greenbelt's at-large election system - in which all residents can vote for all the seats - is to blame. They claim it dilutes the minority vote and discourages minority participation, which violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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