A lawsuit that alleges Albany County didn’t do enough in 2011 to create a new election district made up mostly of minority voters can go forward, a judge ruled. In a decision issued Tuesday, Judge Lawrence E. Kahn ruled there are enough black residents in a compact geographic area in the county to create a fifth minority district, allowing the case to proceed to trial. The plaintiffs — who include local NAACP leader Anne Pope and former County Legislator Wanda Willingham — brought the action seeking to invalidate the 2011 redistricting map by arguing the 2010 census showed a growth in the minority population, and therefore, minority representation should have been increased to five legislators out of 39 from the current of four. The suit says the county violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
One of the key disputes in the case is whether Hispanics should be included with blacks as part of the minority population. The plaintiffs contend they should, while the county has argued blacks and Hispanics are not politically cohesive because they don’t vote the same way, and therefore, should not be grouped together.
County Attorney Tom Marcelle said he is “extremely confident” the county will prevail in the case, adding that the decision to proceed to trial by Kahn was “wise and cautious” and that it will allow the court to “review the very divisive issue of whether to combine Hispanics and blacks as a single minority.”