rigid equal population rules can force districts to cut up communities: if every districtmust be exactly the same size, a district may have to carve out part of a town or countyor neighborhood."
This appears to be the exact concern of Albany neighborswith the proposed plan.
Although the Voting Rights Act does not state a specific alloweddeviation, the Courts have ruled on the issue of deviations of population numbers. In 1964 theUnited States Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims,377 US 533 , ruled that Alabama’s state
redistricting plan that had population deviance ratios of one to fourteen was unconstitutional.However the Court in that case declared that “mathematical exactness” was not required.Following the Reynolds case, the Courts generally established that absent evidence of discriminatory intent, a deviation of 5% over or under the norm population in municipal districtswas not a violation of the “one person – one vote” principle. In 1971, in Abate v. Mundt, 403 US182, the United States Supreme Court in an opinion written by Justice Thurgood Marshall,affirmed as constitutional a Rockland County New York redistricting plan with a slightly higher deviation than the 5% over or under the norm. The decision cited the particular needs of communities of interest.
Additionally, the fact that the section of the Park South neighborhood was moved after all three of the Commission's public hearings should not be ignored by the Council. Thatsection of Park South shares significantly more interests with their neighbors onMadison Avenue, Morris Street and Myrtle Avenue to the west of South Lake Avenue, andthe rest of the proposed 10th ward than it shares with the large hospital complex of Albany Medical Center and Capital District Psychiatric Center
that connects that sectionof Park South to the 9th ward.
In reviewing the enclosures submitted with the Commission's letter, it is clear that theCommission made every effort to address community concerns given their agreed uponguidelines, but that the guidelines were simply too stringent to keep cohesive neighborhoodstogether in every instance. The Brennan Center has many suggestions for the most fair redistricting possible, one of those provided in
A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting
in the"Suggestions for Reform" section states
Allow the legislature a final tweak. One of thedownsides of independent redistricting is that legislators really do tend to know their districts inside and out. Allowing the legislature a final opportunity to tweak commissionlines may both facilitate the passage of redistricting reform in the first place, and permitan escape valve to correct unintended negative consequences of particular redistrictingdecisions, at least on the margins...."
(Levitt 77)Unfortunately, the Operations Committee voted to forward the Commission's map for an up or down vote of the full Council without seriously considering the concerns expressed at theJanuary 7 Common Council hearing or the remarks of former Assembly Member, JackMcEneny who testified before the Council and the Commission about the importance of keepingneighborhoods together especially in city redistricting. It is clear that given a little bit of time andeffort, there are ways to address the majority of the concerns expressed since Council Member Sano managed to take some time and come up with a proposal that addresses three of the four concerns raised by the public on January 7. “Redistricting and Transparency” states,
"Thehearing process should not be illusory. Simply trotting out a dog-and-pony show wherethere is not meaningful opportunity to incorporate feedback is meaningless and insultingto the public who take their participation seriously. All redistricting authorities, uponcompletion of a final plan should leave time to rework the plan based upon publicfeedback, if necessary."