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Albany County Redistricting Commission releases first draft map

ACRC draft redistricting map
ACRC draft redistricting map

The Albany County Redistricting Commission has released its first draft map.

Albany County was sued for violations of the Voting Rights Act after each of the last three U.S. Censuses. An independent redistricting commission created in 2019 has been working with a majority-minority district subcommittee to redraw lines in a bid to avoid more lawsuits.

Larry Volk chairs the Albany County Redistricting Commission.

"The main two goals of redistricting are to have each district as near in population as all other districts," said Volk. "And the second one is that there is not any racial or minority language discrimination. Those two come from federal law, the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment. New York State went beyond that, and established a list of criteria in order that counties need to use to redistrict. And whereas federal law generally permits up to a 10% variation in size of districts by population, under the New York statute, it is a maximum of 5%."

Democratic County Legislature Chair Andrew Joyce says the 39 legislators will maintain their distance as the local law sets a clear path forward.

"We don't want to go back to where we were before," Joyce said. "And if we step on our toes through this process, that's definitely a possibility. That's a possibility that every single one of us want to avoid. It's an important priority for all of us and legislature that this this process remains independent, and can bear the scrutiny later on, when we talk about how fair and transparent and good the process was."

Citing shifts in population, Volk says every district in the county has changed, some more than others.

"The districts in the north and east have gotten a bit smaller," Volk said. "And the districts in the south and west have gotten a bit larger. And the ones in the middle have all changed a little bit, because all of them have seen some variation in their population growth."

Majority Minority District Redistricting Subcommittee Chair Marie Allen Campbell says creating fair and equitable maps to reflect increased minority representation requires public input.

"Because it is the public who understand their communities and their neighborhoods," said Campbell. "It's the public that can bring more reasonableness and practicality to where the lines are drawn. But it's not always easy to get the public engaged in a process which many people view as just another part of the political process, which it is not."

Campbell notes some people are confusing the contentious state redistricting saga with the Albany County redistricting process.

"We know that from being out and talking to people who have conveyed to us issues relative to the state process having blown up. And we've had the opportunity to talk to them about how the Albany County process is not the same process," said Campbell.

ACRC’s third public hearing is set for May 26th at 5. It will be presented in “hybrid” format, allowing residents to either comment in person at the Harold L. Joyce County Office Building, 112 State Street in downtown Albany, or via Zoom.

The public is invited and encouraged to submit maps to the ACRC and MMD either via the MORe software, or by sending a document to RedistrictingCommission@AlbanyCountyNY.gov.

Albany County NY MORe User Guide
Maptitude Online Redistricting (MORe)

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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