The Monroe County Legislature’s Democratic Caucus is challenging the latest attempt at redistricting. Data from consulting firm ArcBridge, they say, shows a lack of majority Black districts in the proposal.
Supporters of the proposed Crescent map say it would result in five primarily Black voting areas in districts 22, 25, 27, 28 and 29. However, the Democratic Caucus claims three of those districts (22, 28, and 29) would have less than 50 percent of a non-Hispanic Black voting age population.
“This is troubling as the map falls short on its promise, while breaking up communities,” said Legislator Yversha Roman at a press conference Thursday. “The right thing to do is to determine whether we can create six effective majority-minority districts that provide for more opportunities to elect Black representatives.”
Supporters of the new map have used misleading and inaccurate information to launch a PR campaign that is “paraded as a full-fledged bipartisan effort,” the caucus says.
Those who back the Crescent map accuse the Democratic Caucus of misinformation as well. Using the non-Hispanic Black metric can leave out mixed-race and African-Latinos, skewing numbers against the majority-minority districts. According to the ArcBridge data, districts 22, 28 and 29 have 36 percent, 32 percent, and 19 percent Hispanic voting age population, respectively.
“In Monroe County, five Black majority districts are proportional to the Black population, historic for our community, and are required by the Voting Rights Act,” Legislature President Sabrina LaMar said in a statement. “This historic map, now known as the Bi-Partisan Crescent Map, was created and agreed to by Democrats until they panicked at the thought of Black voting districts.
“Now, the Democratic Caucus is engaged in misinformation designed to confuse voters and pit the Hispanic community against the Black community–all to protect the interests of the white Democratic political establishment.”
LaMar also referenced an analysis by elections attorney Joe Burns that backs the newest map. Burns writes that the Crescent map has the highest possibility of passing a challenge under Voting Rights Act Section 2, supported by frameworks and tests established by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Thornburg v. Gingles.
Under Gingles, minority groups in question must be sufficiently large, compact, politically cohesive, and vote as a bloc. Burns notes that none of the proposed maps have managed to create a majority Hispanic voting age population district, meaning they do not have protection as a group from the Voting Rights Act.
“I call for the members of the Democratic Caucus to put aside their partisanship, end their misinformation campaign, and support this historic plan to enfranchise the disenfranchised in our community,” LaMar said.
Legislator Rachel Barnhart, a Democrat who supports the new proposal, is disappointed that others in her party are opposed to it, and frustrated at the lack of an alternative, viable map.
“It’s devastating to see fellow Democrats–who initially agreed to create the five Black districts– engage in anti-Black racism in an effort to thwart this historic opportunity,” said Barnhart. “Arguing over definitions of who considers themselves Black on Census data is pretextual to just not want to create Black districts.
“It’s not too late to do our jobs and work together to bring this matter to a resolution,” she added.
Members of the Democratic Caucus take umbrage at that. They claim that under the proposed map, District 21, which Barnhart represents, will change from majority-minority to over 60 percent white voting aged population.
“When we started this redistricting process, Legislator Barnhart told us ‘neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods.’ She, as our former assistant minority leader, encouraged us to involve our communities and fight to keep neighborhoods together,” said Legislator Mercedes Vazquez Simmons. “When Legislator Barnhart saw the writing on the wall that a sensible map might be drawn for her district, the importance of keeping neighborhoods together was rebranded as ‘pretty shapes.’ These neighborhoods are not pretty shapes.”
Neighborhoods are the backbone of communities, she added, often filled with residents who have lived there for decades.
“Splitting neighborhoods and communities in an electoral process is a textbook strategy for disenfranchisement and no one is buying it,” Simmons said.
While the map has yet to be approved by the Legislature, it will require County Executive Adam Bello’s sign off. Bello previously vetoed a proposed map in mid-December 2021, which prompted the drafting of new possibilities.