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Monroe County Legislature sets hearing on controversial plan to redraw districts

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The Monroe County Legislature will soon vote on a proposed redistricting map. Shown is a countywide view of the proposed districts and a cut out of the proposed city districts. - GRAPHIC BY JACOB WALSH
  • GRAPHIC BY JACOB WALSH
  • The Monroe County Legislature will soon vote on a proposed redistricting map. Shown is a countywide view of the proposed districts and a cut out of the proposed city districts.
The public will get a chance to weigh in on a controversial proposal to redraw the map of Monroe County legislative districts during a public hearing at 5 p.m. on Sept. 28.

The Monroe County Legislature set the hearing Tuesday by a split vote, with all members of the Democratic Caucus except Rachel Barnhart voting against the measure. A date and time for the hearing are forthcoming.

“I look forward to talking with the community about this project in coming weeks,” Barnhart said just before legislators cast their votes..

Legislative bodies are required by law to redraw their districts every 10 years in response to the results of the decennial census, a process known as redistricting.

The proposal under consideration would create five majority-Black districts in the impoverished neighborhoods that ring downtown Rochester. Legislature President Sabrina LaMar, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, has been vigorously advocating for the tentative plan with Democratic Legislator Rachel Barnhart.

Barnhart has framed the proposed map as a compromise that would protect minority voters in a way that’s consistent with the law, particularly the Voting Rights Act. It would make other districts, including suburban ones, more competitive, she’s argued.



But the other 13 Democrats in the Legislature have argued that the proposed map is harmful to city and suburban voters alike. They’ve also pointed out that the map currently in effect contains six districts where minorities make up a majority of the voting-age population.

Yversha Roman, leader of the Democratic caucus, has argued that the proposed map takes parts of some heavily Black neighborhoods and moves them into adjacent districts in order to create the five majority-Black districts. She said that could dilute the voting power of the city’s growing Latino population.

County Executive Adam Bello hasn’t publicly indicated whether he’ll sign or veto the legislation. If he does exercise a veto, it would be unlikely that enough legislators would come together to override it.

The plan could ultimately end up in court, depending on what Bello does should it pass.

A veto would send lawmakers back to the drawing board increasing the odds that a court would be petitioned to draw the lines. If the map is approved and Bello does not veto it, then it may face a court challenge around its technical and legal merits.

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

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