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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 8, 2011


District lines stand, minority trio to appeal

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALBANY COUNTY — United States District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn found against a group of residents who sued the county, claiming that its new voting districts deny them an equal opportunity to vote for representatives.

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, sued Albany County after it adopted new district lines after the 2010 Census figures were released because, they said, the new map of the county’s 39 voting districts should have included a fifth district made up of predominantly minority voters.  The map that the county legislature adopted in May maintains four majority-minority districts.

The decision was filed on Aug. 18 and four days later, Mitchell Karlan and Paul DerOhannesian, representing Pope, Willingham, and Gonzalez, filed a notice of appeal.

Kahn references in his decision three preconditions for a vote dilution claim set out in the Thornburg v. Gingles United States Supreme Court decision:

— 1. The minority group must be sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district;

— 2. The minority group must show that it is cohesive; and

— 3. The minority must demonstrate that the white majority votes as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.

“Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of showing a likelihood of success on the merits at this stage of the litigation,” Kahn wrote.  Following the redrawing of district lines after the last two Census counts, the county was successfully challenged to include additional majority-minority districts.

Kahn found that a “barebones 50.44 percent” black voting age population is not sufficient to warrant a fifth majority-minority district and that “the court cannot conclude, in the absence of any statistical voting evidence, that a twenty-year-old Consent Decree, evidence of socioeconomic similarities, and mere anecdotal evidence of cooperation between blacks and Hispanics in the community are in and of themselves sufficient to prove that the two groups are politically cohesive.”

On the third measure, Kahn found that “the recent electoral successes of some minority candidates in Albany County suggest that longstanding bloc voting among whites that usually defeats the preferred minority candidate is in the process of changing.”


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