Monthly Archives: March 2015

U.S. Census Estimates: Downstate Growth; Upstate Small Losses

New U.S. Census data indicates that New York City continued to grow slowly in 2014 while many upstate counties posted small population losses.

County-level population estimates released last week showed New York City grew 0.62 percent from July 2013 to July 2014, to 8.49 million people. Suburban Long Island,  Westchester and Rockland counties  also grew modestly over the year. Rockland County’s 0.9 percent growth rate was the fastest statewide over the year.

Only 10 upstate counties showed growth over the year, with most posting a loss of less than 1 percent. Saratoga County’s 0.36 percent growth rate was the fastest upstate.

Although New York fell out of third place in state population between 2013 and 2014, the state did have three counties among the top 50 numerical gainers. Each was a New York City borough: Kings (Brooklyn), which added about 19,000; Queens, which gained about 18,000; and Bronx (with an increase of about 11,000).

Sullivan County lost 1.37 percent of its population over the year, the fastest rate of loss in the state.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Alabama Redistricting

Tim Phelps reports in GOVERNING about yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating the Alabama state legislative redistricting plan. He writes:

“The Supreme Court delivered a rare victory for minority voting rights Wednesday, finding that a 2012 Alabama redistricting plan appeared to violate federal law by shifting black voters into districts they already dominated to dilute their influence elsewhere.”

This decision basically underscores the need for district specific racial voting analysis. There is no “one percentage fits all” rule adopted by many states after 2010. The decision also mentions the mindless drive to reach +/- 1% deviation at the state level.

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More on the Albany County Legislature Decision

Here’s a follow up article from the Times Union regarding yesterday’s decision rejecting the Albany County Legislature’s redistricting plan. Of interest here is that Judge Kahn did not deal with the issue of Hispanic and black cohesiveness. His decision was based on black voting data alone. Courts have yet to decide whether Hispanic and black cohesiveness can be combined to meet prong two of the Gingles test: that the minority community votes cohesively. The plaintiffs attorney and this writer debated this issue two years ago in a challenge against the Town of Hempstead for the failure to create a combined minority district. The case was eventually withdrawn before it went to trial.

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Albany County Violated Voting Rights Act; Must Redraw County Legislative Districts

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist is reporting  in the Times Union  that “Albany County diluted minority voting power in its 2011 redistricting plan and has blocked county officials from moving ahead with this year’s legislative elections until a new plan is drafted.

In an 81-page decision, Senior U.S. Judge Lawrence Kahn ordered the county to submit a new plan to the court within three weeks — a timetable that seems designed not to disrupt the existing election calendar, which begins with ballot petitioning in June.”

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NYC Council To Consider Bill On Non-citizen Voting

NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm is considering legislation to permit non-citizens to vote in New York City’s municipal elections. If enacted, NYC could become one of eight jurisdictions in the United States to permit non-citizens to vote. As reported by Matthew Chayes, such a move could be consequential in at least 20 of 51 council districts where immigrant population numbers are highest.

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Nassau County GOP Questioned by FEC over U.S. House Race Contributions

Newsday reports that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is questioning Nassau County Republicans about a $50,000 contribution to a Massachusetts-based super PAC that ran ads against U.S. House candidate Kathleen Rice last year. The Nassau GOP registered as a federal party committee and filed a report without certain information on this payment.

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Niagara County Considering Printing Ballots In-House

The Lockport Journal reports that the Niagara County Legislature is considering printing election ballots in-house to save money. The legislature may have a committee consider this move to save costs.

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Hasidic Voters Sue Sullivan County Board of Elections

Liz Benjamin reports  a group of Hasidic voters in the small Catskills village of Bloomingburg is suing the Sullivan County Board of Elections, alleging it is “engaging in an unyielding discriminatory campaign” to deprive them of their right to vote because of their religion.

There has been an ongoing dispute between the Hasidic community in Bloomingburg, which has grown considerably in recent years, and local officials. The heart of the standoff is a Hasidic housing project proposed by a controversial developer named Shalom Lamm.

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NYS Redistricting Body Likely Unaffected by Supreme Court Scrutiny

Bill Mahoney informs us in Capital New York that the Arizona congressional redistricting case heard by the Supreme Court is not likely to impact New York’s new commission process. The article is reprinted with permission.

New York redistricting body likely unaffected by Supreme Court scrutiny

By Bill Mahoney| Mar. 6, 2015

ALBANY—While a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the meaning of the word “legislature” might abolish or diminish several states’ redistricting commissions, it appears the one created in New York State last year is safe for now.

The U.S. Constitution vests the legislatures of each state with the power to decide matters related to congressional elections, including the creation of new district lines after each decennial census. In states such as Arizona and California, referendums led to the creation of independent commissions to handle redistricting.

In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission, legislators challenged the existence of the commission. Their attorneys have argued it blocks the state legislature from performing a duty it is constitutionally obligated to perform.

Supporters say drafters of the Constitution understood “legislature” to mean any lawmaking body, including the people of the state, and did not have specific government bodies in mind.

Most observers, however, doubt their arguments convinced many justices, whose questions indicated that they were skeptical of this line of reasoning. They seemed particularly convinced by an argument that states could not find a way to allow the direct election of senators before the passage of the 17th Amendment, which took that selection out of the hands of state legislatures.

The commission’s lawyers “did not make a convincing case that the legislature could be something other than the legislature itself,” said Jeff Wice, a fellow at SUNY Buffalo Law School and redistricting expert who has worked in New York and California.

While New York does not have a referendum process like that in Arizona, the commission that will likely be active in 2022 was created by a vote of the people through a constitutional amendment that passed last year. This amendment was supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who called for its passage in lieu of his previous demands for an independent mapmaking process in 2012.

The New York commission, however, is technically only advisory, and the state Legislature can overrule it. If either the Assembly or State Senate rejects two sets of maps produced by the panel, they can draw their own. This means the commission is unlikely to be affected by any Supreme Court ruling that would abolish commissions elsewhere.

“The commission, as it’s a red herring for reform, would still be able to draw lines to recommend from the legislature,” Wice said. “It’s different from Arizona or California.”

Former Democratic assemblyman John McEneny, who served as his conference’s representative in the 2012 redistricting process, views the continued involvement of the Legislature as better than proposed alternatives.

“You’re wrestling between conflict of interest and lack of knowledge and a lot of sanctimonious talk from people who really have to understand what a map of New York State looks like,” he said. “We only put in more opportunity for citizens who are less connected and by leaving the Legislature in the end signing off on the final product, then New York is probably OK either way.”

Regardless of whether the commission survives judicial scrutiny, some activists and reformers believe it needs to be changed before the lines are redrawn after the next Census.

“It should be fixed regardless of what the Supreme Court does,” said Mark Favors, the plaintiff in a 2012 suit that resulted in a judicial panel drawing New York’s congressional lines.

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Will Working Families Elect A Candidate to the State Assembly On May 5?

In what can only be described as a bizarre turn of events, the Working Families Party is hard at work looking to elect its first candidate to the State Assembly.  Kings County Democrats were apparently caught off guard by the Governor’s announcement of  a May 5 special election to fill the seat of Carim Camara in the Crown Heights-based 43rd Assembly.  A perennial gadfly candidate organized and garnered the votes of the Democratic County Committee while another perennial candidate is running on the Love Yourself line. This leaves the Working Families Family with the opportunity to elect its own candidate. WFP was successful once before in this area, electing Letitia James to the City Council after the incumbent was killed. Ironically, Tish succeeded James Davis whose brother Geoffrey lost to her and is now the Love Yourself candidate. Read about it in Kings County Politics.

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