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Albany County — The Altamont Enterprise, May 26, 2011

Could face lawsuit
County legislature redistricts

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALBANY COUNTY — In a split vote over citizen protests, the county legislature adopted a new map drawn to reflect demographic shifts in the 2010 census.  It splits the village of Voorheesville between two legislative districts and moves the town of Knox from a district that includes other Hilltowns to a district covering a large part of suburban Guilderland, which will also have a new district.

On Monday, the legislature voted 22 to 14 to accept the map submitted by the seven-member redistricting committee.  The Republican minority of eight voted solidly for the plan while the Democrats were divided.

Before the vote, several people, including members of the city’s common council and a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, asked the legislature to forego the map submitted in favor of gathering further public input and to give consideration to a plan submitted by Aaron Mair, a civil rights activist and long-time redistricting watchdog.

“It is better to be safe than sorry,” said Anne Pope, director of the northeastern region for the NAACP New York Conference.  She reminded the legislators that the Albany chapter, under her leadership, sued the county and won after the last redistricting, 10 years ago.  “Please don’t take my words lightly,” she said.

Pope asked the legislature not to accept a plan that would dilute the minority vote or violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices.  She supports Mair’s plan, which includes five majority minority districts, meaning that the majority of voters within the districts are racial or ethnic minorities, rather than the four included in the county’s plan.

“It’s not about the lines, it’s about power,” Mair said of redrawing the district boundaries after the Census is done every 10 years.  People come up with artificial means of maintaining power, he said.

While Mair’s main focus was the city of Albany, his map also maintains the 39th District, including Berne, Knox, and Rensselaerville, which has been represented by Alexander “Sandy” Gordon since 1996.

Dozens of Hilltown residents asked the legislature to maintain the 39th district, arguing that they share a community.  (For the full story, go online to www.AltamontEnterprise.com and look under Hilltown archives for May 12, 2011 and May 19, 2011.)

On the possibility of a lawsuit, Gordon said yesterday, people “have a right to do that.”  He was disappointed with the proposal from the commission, he said.

Gordon plans to run for re-election in a district that will likely include the towns of Berne, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo, which had been in the 38th District with the town of New Scotland.

County Executive Michael Breslin will hold the required public hearing before he accepts the map on May 31 at 5 p.m. at 112 State Street in Albany.

Of the new district lines, Gordon said yesterday, “The political bosses are being served over the constituents.”

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