Federal judge rules against New Rochelle's new voting district lines

(12/12/03) NEW ROCHELLE - A bombshell decision by a federal judge could change the political face of one of Westchester's largest cities. When New Rochelle redrew its district lines earlier this year, members of the African-American community complained it took away their voice at city hall. They sued, and the courts agreed on Friday.

The decision handed down by U. S. District Court Judge Charles Brieant pulled no punches in reversing a redistricting plan in New Rochelle. He said the new voting districts "unnecessarily and unfairly, to no good purpose, dilute the voting strength of African-Americans."

Voting district three, bordered by North Avenue, is the only majority African-American district in the City of New Rochelle. Civil rights attorney Randolph McLaughlin says the judge saw the change as a way to lessen the districts' political clout. He believed any meaningful participation in the voting process required the district to remain intact.

Alan Scheinkman, an attorney representing city officials of New Rochelle, says city officials believe they prepared the redistricting plan in accordance with all applicable laws in a fair and balanced way. He adds that the results of the last election show the city's plan was fair, producing two minority council members where there was only one.

Judge Brieant has ordered city officials in New Rochelle to restore district three to its original boundaries within 60 days. There is no word yet as to whether the city officials will appeal.

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