By Jeremy Moule @jfmoule
PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.
The Rochester branch of the NAACP and several other plaintiffs have filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to take the reins in the stalled process to redraw the Monroe County Legislature’s 29 districts.
The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in federal court, follows County Executive Adam Bello’s veto of a controversial redistricting plan that the Legislature passed in a 17-12 vote in October. Legislators have not overturned that veto.
In their petition, the plaintiffs accuse Bello and his “surrogates” of an “orchestrated and deliberate attempt to undermine Black representation for partisan political gain in Monroe County.” The map he vetoed would have created five districts where a majority of the population was Black. The districts would have spanned the impoverished city neighborhoods bordering downtown, sometimes referred to as The Crescent.
GRAPHIC BY JACOB WALSH
County Executive Adam Bello vetoed a controversial plan passed by the Monroe County Legislature that would have created five majority Black legislative districts.
Bello, a Democrat, “did not want to use the Republican-controlled Legislature to draw district lines,” reads the complaint. “He wanted to stall, delay, and attempt other tactics to remove the redistricting process from the Legislature so that he could achieve partisan dominance in his own favor.”
By law, the Legislature has to redraw its districts every 10 years, following the decennial census.
The petition asks a judge to appoint a special master who will draw new districts, with particular attention paid to whether they meet provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act meant to protect the voting rights of Black people and other minorities. The plaintiffs argue that the matter is urgent because the county Board of Elections needs to know the new district lines by Jan. 15 in order to prepare for the 2023 elections. Every seat in the Legislature is on the ballot this year.
Plaintiffs besides the local NAACP branch are Brighton Town Board member Robin Wilt; the Rev. Myra Brown, lead pastor of Spiritus Christi Church; Pastor James Cooper Sr. of Love Fellowship Worship Center; Dr. Gayle Cooper, a retired developmental psychologist who the petition claims is active with social and racial justice issues; and the Faith Leaders Roundtable, a group of African-American faith leaders in Rochester.
The lawsuit is the second to ask a federal judge to intervene in the Legislature’s redistricting process. A suit filed earlier this month also asked that a special master be appointed to draw new districts. That suit was filed by a group of Democrats, including former elected officials, a potential Legislature candidate, and party activists.
Jeremy Moule is CITY's deputy editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.