regarding plaintiffs' prima facie case is whether plaintiffs have established the third prong, i.e., whether "the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it -- in the absence of special circumstances . . . -- usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate. Id. at 50-51, 106 S. Ct. at 2766-67.
This matter is now before this Court for a final decision on the merits. On the basis of the findings of fact and conclusions of law set forth below, this Court finds in favor of defendants on plaintiffs' claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
FINDINGS OF FACT
A. POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE CITY OF NIAGARA FALLS
1. Niagara Falls came into being pursuant to an Act of the New York State Legislature on March 17, 1892, with the union of the Villages of Suspension Bridge and Niagara Falls.
2. Originally, the City Charter provided for a mayor/aldermanic form of government, with the aldermen elected from wards within the city. In 1892, this form provided for eight aldermen, with two elected from each of four wards. The aldermen in each ward served staggered, two-year terms. The Mayor was elected at-large for a one-year term.
3. In 1914, the New York State Legislature enacted the "Optional City Government Law," permitting certain New York cities the option of adopting one of seven different forms of municipal government.
4. In 1915, a referendum was held under which the voters opted for a council/manager plan. Under this plan the Mayor and four councilpersons were elected at-large for four year terms. Terms of office for the Council were staggered, with two councilpersons elected every two years. These five officials served part-time, and comprised the City Council. The Mayor voted equally in Council matters.
5. These five officials appointed a City Manager who ran the day-to-day affairs of the city.
6. This plan of government was in effect until January 1, 1988, a period of 73 years.
7. In 1984 the City created a City Charter Revision Commission composed of seven city residents, including one African American, with instructions to study City government and recommend any changes it deemed appropriate. As a result of this study, and after public hearings, a referendum was held at the general election in November 1985, at which time the electorate was given the option of selecting:
a. A mayor-council form of government with the mayor as the chief executive officer and a seven member council;
b. If a mayor-council form were adopted, whether the seven members of the city council would be elected from seven separate single-member councilmanic districts or at-large;
c. A manager-council form of government with the city manager as the chief executive officer and a six member city council;
d. If a manager-council form were adopted, whether the six members of the city council would be elected from six separate single-member councilmanic districts or at-large.
8. On November 5, 1985 the voters of Niagara Falls voted in favor of a "strong mayor" plan with the seven members of the city council to be elected at-large. This Charter amendment became effective on January 1, 1988. The expanded council and new mayor were elected at the November 1987 general election.
9. Under the present "strong mayor" form of government, the Mayor is the chief executive officer of the City, with veto power over the enactments of a separate legislative branch: the seven member City Council. The day-to-day operations of the City are under the direction of an Administrator, who is appointed by the Mayor. Both the Mayor and Council members are elected to four year terms, with the Council members serving staggered terms. Councilmanic elections are held every two years.
B. CANDIDATE SLATING
1. There are five recognized political parties in the State of New York: