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Bello rejects Monroe County Legislature's redistricting plan

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Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.
County Executive Adam Bello has delivered his expected veto of legislation establishing new districts for the Monroe County Legislature.

Bello’s veto sets the stage for a likely legal battle. Supporters of the map previously said they’d sue and file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice in the event of the veto.

“As I have made clear, I cannot support the proposed map because it reduces opportunities for communities of color to elect their candidates of choice to the County Legislature,” Bello wrote in his veto memo.

Legislators passed the contentious redistricting proposal on Oct. 21 by a vote of 17 to 12. Along with the 14-member Republican Caucus, three Democrats — Legislature President Sabrina LaMar and Legislators Rachel Barnhart and Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman – voted for it.

The proposal would have created five Legislature districts with a majority of Black voters. Those districts would have spanned the neighborhoods that ring downtown Rochester.
County Executive Adam Bello vetoed a controversial plan passed by the Monroe County Legislature that would create five majority Black legislative districts. - GRAPHIC BY JACOB WALSH
  • GRAPHIC BY JACOB WALSH
  • County Executive Adam Bello vetoed a controversial plan passed by the Monroe County Legislature that would create five majority Black legislative districts.
Supporters of the plan have argued that it would increase the power of Black voters in historically neglected and marginalized neighborhoods and make it easier for them to elect their preferred candidates.

They’ve also made a public case that the map complies with the Voting Rights Act, a set of federal laws passed to prevent the disenfranchisement of Black voters and members of other minority groups.



Monroe County Legislature President Sabrina LaMar.. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Monroe County Legislature President Sabrina LaMar..
LaMar, who caucuses with the GOP, and Barnhart have championed the plan. Hoffman had been highly critical of it, but voted for it, saying that she was acting on what people in her district asked her to do.

The other 13 Democratic legislators have argued that concentrating Black voters in five districts could dilute the voting power of other minority groups, particularly Latinos.

They’ve also claimed that the plan would eliminate the possibility of creating a larger number of districts where minorities are in the majority and Black voters are able to elect their candidates of choice.

Members of the Democratic Caucus had urged Bello to veto the redistricting legislation.

Last week, attorney Nate McMurray said that he planned to file a lawsuit demanding six Black majority districts in the Legislature. He also included a letter that he said he planned to send to the U.S. Department of Justice “asking for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the redistricting process.”

“Democratic leaders have shown a willingness to either intentionally or through their own negligence misrepresent what the Voting Rights Act requires, even to the extent that they have used the goals of the Voting Rights Act as (a) wedge to divide minority communities,” read the letter McMurray drafted. “Namely, and for the sake of absolute clarity, they did this for their own self-interest (either a supermajority in the legislature or preserved incumbency).”

The Legislature could vote on overturning Bello’s veto but doing so requires the support of a two-thirds majority of legislators.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's deputy editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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