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A State Power Grab Disguised As A Protection Of Voter Rights

The goals enshrined in the newly-signed John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York are goals we should all share.

Polling places should be located in such a way that everyone has an equal opportunity to vote. There should be equal numbers of voting machines at each polling site. Those who are eligible to vote and need translation help should have that help. No one should intimidate or obstruct someone of any color who is trying to exercise their right to vote.

On these things we should all be able to agree.

But there is disagreement between Democrats and Republicans in the state Capitol over the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York — and it’s easy to understand why. The biggest issue with is a familiar one in New York right now — removing power from local governments and consolidating it either in the hands of the state or courts. The so-called Independent Redistricting Commission ended up blatantly throwing the drawing of district lines into the hands of legislative leadership and then the courts because a deadlock was always bound to happen. Local concerns over green energy projects — which likely would happen regardless of local opposition — are muffled by state laws to speed up the approval of wind and solar projects at the expense of local public comment and debate. Isolation and quarantine rules currently the subject of a legal challenge similarly place more power over who is isolated during a disease outbreak into the hands of the state at the expense of local health officials. Now, a voting rights act has been passed that places great power over the way local representation is designed in the hands of courts even in areas where there is no history of discrimination.

“This bill says we don’t care what your intent is. I’m not just making that up or summarizing — it says evidence concerning the intent of the parties or of the intent of the voters or the elected officials cannot be considered,” Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, said on the Assembly floor.

Making sure minority communities have equal access to voting is an important goal. But much of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York is yet another Albany power grab at a time when trust in Albany is pretty low.

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