Federal judges affirm Republican-drawn Senate map

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Voting booths. (AP Photo/The Advocate Messenger, Clay Jackson)
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ALBANY—After a full election cycle and more than two years of legal maneuvering, a panel of three federal judges dismissed challenges to the Republican-drawn map of State Senate districts, saying population deviation that tilted numbers upstate were permissible and any allegation of race-based gerrymandering was “purely speculative.”

Democrats, along with several civil rights groups, attacked the now-adopted district lines as unfairly stacking the deck against Democrats in downstate communities and said they split apart a predominately black and Latino area on Long Island to dilute its mostly Democratic voters into several Republican districts.

By creating a 63rd senate district between Kingston and Amsterdam, the Democrats continued, they had added a seat far from the region where most population growth was taking place.

Republicans who controlled the redistricting process as part of a task force called LATFOR always said their lines were based on demographics, and insisted they complied with the state and federal constitutional as well as the federal Voting Rights Act, which was enacted to protect the voting rights of racial minorities. A panel of three Brooklyn-based federal judges—initially convened to oversee the drafting of new congressional districts—agreed, saying it was unable to clear the high bar that courts have for undoing legislative actions.

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“While the Senate Plan does not reflect perfect equality in population apportionment, its minor deviations comport with the discretion afforded to the states to legislate their own redistricting. We thus conclude that the Senate Plan does not violate the one-person one-vote principle,” wrote Reena Raggi, Gerard Lynch and Dora Irizarry.

“That the Senate Majority Defendants have advanced valid justifications for the Senate Plan’s deviations from strict equal allocation of population further undermines the claim that the Senate Plan’s minor deviations provides evidence of discrimination,” the judges wrote. “The mere fact that a decision “arguably bear[s] more heavily on racial minorities” does not alone establish discriminatory motive.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo promised when he ran for governor to do away with the traditional, partisan redistricting process that takes place every decade, but signed off on a compromise that once again allowed the Republican majority to determine the Senate map. 

Here's a link to the decision: http://goo.gl/5BzMlu