Barnhart Strongly Supports 5 Majority Black Districts

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Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart strongly supports the map drawn by a bipartisan group of legislators that will be introduced by the Redistricting Commission today. The map was negotiated by centering the Voting Rights Act, a federal law passed in 1965 to stop discrimination at the polls and ensure minority representation in government. 

“With voting rights under attack across the country, the Monroe County Legislature is poised to adopt a strong plan for Black voting rights,” said Legislator Rachel Barnhart. “This plan brings the number of majority Black districts from two to five.”

A delegation of the Democratic Caucus participated in the negotiation, which was premised on creating five majority-Black districts. When a first draft was shown to the caucus, members did not support the map, and subsequently circulated a three-district map to counter in negotiations. County Executive Adam Bello, who previously told the caucus he supports a two-district plan that was introduced in May, has not yet indicated support for the five-district plan.

The Democratic Caucus members are pushing illegally diluted districts under the guise of “majority minority” districts, which are not allowed by the Voting Rights Act if they come at the expense of Majority Black districts. No other minority group is large or compact enough to reach the legal threshold for a protected district under the Voting Rights Act. 

“There is no excuse for any Democrat to advocate for fewer than five Black districts, which is proportional to the Black population of the county. Supporting fewer than five districts is to support a regressive plan that turns the clock back 30 years,” said Legislator Barnhart. “I am appalled at blatant attempts to pit people against each other in order to suppress Black voters and candidates. Arguing that the creation of Black districts hurts others is the ‘all lives matter’ of redistricting.”

Following the Voting Rights Act, as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution is not optional. 

“A good ‘rule of thumb’ to use when working towards compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is that where racially polarized voting exists, if a district with a majority of minority voting age population can be created, it must be created,” said elections law attorney Joe Burns, who represents the Monroe County Board of Elections. “The Bi-Partisan Map has shown it’s entirely feasible to draw 5 districts with a voting age population that is majority Black.”

“In light of the Supreme Court’s assault on constitutional freedoms, we cannot turn our backs on voting rights” Legislator Barnhart. “It’s the job of the Legislature per the County Charter to draft a map. By having an even split of Republicans and Democrats, we had checks and balances. I am proud of this effort and I hope we can have serious discussions about supporting this plan.”

Robin Wilt, Brighton Town Council: “Last year and the year before, human rights activists in support of Black Lives were marching through the streets demanding justice for some of the same communities that this map would now help to empower. It is a natural extension of that struggle to now demand that our County Legislators enact a measure of redress for the injustices wrought by generations of voter suppression in these communities. Through ratifying this map that creates five majority African-American Districts in the most historically redlined, disenfranchised, disinvested and underrepresented geographical areas of our city, for the first time we would see these communities impacted by decades of divestment reap the benefits of voting districts apportioned according to their demographic weight. It is incumbent upon our legislators to do the job with which they have been chartered and vote for this map. The Voting Rights Act and our communities craving justice require no less.”

Stanley Martin, Rochester City Council: “In studying the various maps presented and arguments against a district map that would create 5 predominantly Black voting districts in the City of Rochester, I’ve found that opposing arguments are unprincipled and primarily grounded in upholding individual power and control. The Voting Rights Act, intended primarily to end Black voter suppression and allow Black voters to choose representatives that best fit their interests provides legal and moral justification for drawing a new map that empowers Black voters.  I unequivocally support this historical 5 predominantly Black District map that would empower and elevate the voices of Black voters in Monroe County.”