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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2011
Following minority challenge, redistricting testimony heard in court
By Saranac Hale Spencer
ALBANY COUNTY Federal Judge Lawrence Kahn has heard testimony for a suit brought by three Albany minority women who claim that the county’s redistricting plan denies them an equal opportunity to vote for representatives.
Every 10 years, following the results of the federal census, the county reconfigures the lines for its 39 legislative districts to reflect changes in demographics. Formerly, there were four districts where a majority of the voting-age population was from the minority community they are called majority-minority districts.
Since the minority population in Albany County has increased 36 percent since 2000, for which the previous map was drawn, the plaintiffs argue that a fifth majority-minority district is warranted. In May, the Albany County Legislature adopted a new map that maintains four majority-minority districts and the county executive signed it into law in June.
Anne Pope, who works with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Wanda Willingham, a minority representative in the county legislature; and Janis Gonzalez, a candidate for a seat in the legislature, brought the suit. Theirs is not unlike suits in 1991 and 2002, which resulted in the county having to add majority-minority districts to its redistricting maps.
On the second day of testimony, last Thursday, Shawn Morse, the county legislator who chaired the redistricting commission, took the stand and defended the new map. Before him, Matthew Clyne, the Democratic election commissioner, testified about the outcomes of various elections that included minority candidates and the voting patterns of certain districts. The previous day, Judge Kahn heard testimony from William Cooper, an expert on demographics.
Legislator Alexander Gordon, who lives in Knox and whose Hilltown district has shifted, was in the courtroom gallery last Thursday. Gordon and his supporters had unsuccessfully lobbied at public hearings this spring against including Altamont as part of a rural Hilltown district.