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LaMar doubles down with push for six majority-Black legislative districts in Monroe County 

The Monroe County Legislature’s efforts to redraw its legislative districts have been something of a year-long soap opera.

The latest installment: Legislature President Sabrina LaMar has introduced a new proposal and wants to negotiate it.

click to enlarge Monroe County Legislature President Sabrina LaMar has introduced a proposal to create six Legislature districts where Black residents would be in the majority. Shown here is a zoomed-in view of the proposed city districts. - ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED
  • ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED
  • Monroe County Legislature President Sabrina LaMar has introduced a proposal to create six Legislature districts where Black residents would be in the majority. Shown here is a zoomed-in view of the proposed city districts.
Her proposal would create six districts in which the majority of residents are Black. Those would be districts 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29, all of which cover neighborhoods bordering downtown.

“As I have said from the start, this year’s redistricting is a chance to make historic progress in Monroe County and the City of Rochester for all voters,” read a statement from LaMar. “Throughout this process, we have listened to the community, local leaders, and countless others — today, I am proud to share the most historic and empowering proposal to date.”

LaMar had previously tried to push through a plan she and supporters dubbed the “Crescent Map,” which would have created five majority-Black districts in the impoverished neighborhoods that ring the northern half of downtown Rochester. She and the other supporters had argued that the plan would increase the power of Black voters in historically neglected and marginalized neighborhoods and make it easier for them to elect their preferred candidates.

The Legislature passed that proposal in October by a vote of 17 to 12, with most Democrats in opposition. But Monroe County Executive Adam Bello vetoed the measure, writing in his memo that the plan “reduces opportunities for communities of color to elect their candidates of choice to the County Legislature” and that it had “equitable and legal flaws.”

click to enlarge Monroe County Legislature President Sabrina LaMar has introduced a proposal to create six Legislature districts where Black residents would be in the majority. The districts would be in the neighborhoods that border downtown Rochester.
  • Monroe County Legislature President Sabrina LaMar has introduced a proposal to create six Legislature districts where Black residents would be in the majority. The districts would be in the neighborhoods that border downtown Rochester.

Opponents applauded the veto, and had argued that the map would concentrate Black voters in five districts and that it could dilute the voting power of other minority groups, particularly Latinos.

The latest proposal to redraw the county’s legislative map, which LaMar calls “Crescent Map 2.0,” is the third to surface in the last year. States and local governments are obligated by law to redraw legislative districts every 10 years to account for changes revealed by the decennial census.

Democratic Minority Leader Yversha Roman said Wednesday that she had not yet seen LaMar’s proposal and could not comment.

LaMar is a Democrat but she caucuses with Republicans.

Democratic Legislator Rachel Barnhart joined LaMar in advocating for the original “Crescent Map” and on Wednesday spoke in support of the latest installment.

“Crescent Map 2.0 is an elegant way to address the concerns of the original version,” read a statement from Barnhart. “Six districts with approximately 50 percent Black population each is a perfect —and perfectly legal —compromise.

“Such a proposal would not have been possible to put on the table at the beginning of this process, but thanks to valuable feedback and advocacy, we can move forward. We should immediately work together to review the map, including making any necessary, bipartisan adjustments to get it over the finish line.”

Legislators could vote to override Bello's veto, but doing so would require a two-thirds majority, a threshold that is likely beyond reach.

Attorney Nate McMurray, who is working with a group of the proposal’s supporters called the Crescent Map Coalition, had said he planned to file a lawsuit if Bello vetoed the five district plan. In a statement, the coalition backed LaMar’s plan but McMurray emphasized that legal action is not out of the question.

“I urge the Legislature to pass a six-Black district proposal and avoid court action,” McMurray said in the statement. “Time is running out and we are prepared to sue immediately for such a map if this process fails. We can do six districts the easier way or the harder way.”

Jeremy Moule is CITY's deputy editor. He can be reached at jmoule@rochester-citynews.com.

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