“Redistricting Means Power”: Everyday New Yorkers Get A Say In Carving Out Their District Lines


For the primary time in state historical past, on a regular basis New Yorkers will get first dibs in how they outline their state and federal legislative districts, a part of a decennial course of beforehand left solely to lawmakers. That course of begins with outlining neighborhood borders, which advocates hope can in the end enhance the clout locals have with their representatives.

The months-long effort, often known as redistricting, is being organized for the primary time by the Unbiased Redistricting Fee. The ten-member group—with 4 appointed by Democratic state leaders, one other 4 by Republican leaders, and two chosen by the fee—shaped after a 2014 referendum vote that sought higher enter from New Yorkers over tips on how to reshape their strains.

Such an association has drawn scrutiny from voting advocates who consider the fee will not be wholly impartial since members are appointees and haven’t got a closing say over the road. David Imamura, chair of the IRC, didn’t reply a request for remark over the physique’s independence, however advised Capital Tonight he is actively prevented being lobbied by any state or federal lawmaker over his position.

Redistricting includes using the newest census knowledge collected each ten years to make sure an equal variety of residents are populated in every district; the newest census tract knowledge will likely be out there August sixteenth.

On Thursday, the group held its first of three digital hearings, beginning in Queens, the place greater than 100 residents spoke.

For years, sitting state lawmakers had a direct say over how these legislative strains had been redrawn, permitting them to field out their constituents. This course of was criticized for permitting legislators to govern strains of their favor, derisively labeled “gerrymandering.” In some situations, one neighborhood fell into a number of districts, successfully splitting voting blocs with unified priorities. This successfully eroded political energy from these neighborhoods, significantly in immigrant communities, diminishing their voices.

Many advocates who spoke sought to forge districts that saved ethnic communities underneath one Meeting, Senate, or Congressional district.

A highlighted portion of the 14th Senate District that appears like a jigsaw puzzle.


The 14th Senate District in Queens showing to be formed like a jigsaw puzzle.

Screenshot of Unbiased Redistricting Fee listening to

“Redistricting means energy,” Elizabeth OuYoung, a coordinator with Asian Pacific American Voting and Organizing to Improve Civic Engagement, testified.

In an interview with Gothamist/WNYC forward of the listening to, OuYoung stated the present construction of a few of these districts has diluted the ability of neighborhoods. “So wherever from combating for a trash disposal can in your avenue to advocating for a group middle is problematic,” OuYoung stated. “Even a candidate operating for workplace can ignore you if you’re a sliver, or a minority, or gerrymandered district […] as a result of your group has been divided.”

Rehan Mehmood, director of well being providers for the South Asian Council for Social Companies, discovered South Asian neighborhoods have been grossly divided. He pointed to the neighborhood of Flushing, which is presently coated by twenty fifth and fortieth Meeting Districts. Mehmood believes Flushing ought to simply be coated by one district. Such a transfer would additional enhance the probabilities of electing a lawmaker who displays the demographics of the neighborhood.

Jerry Vattamala, an lawyer with the Asian American Authorized Protection and Training Fund, identified that Asian enclaves in Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park have seven Meeting districts, presenting limitations for the ethnic voting bloc in electing an Asian to the Meeting.

“This was the case 10 years in the past. It was probably the most divided neighborhood in the complete metropolis and this can not stand,” Vattamala stated. “Given the altering demographics of New York Metropolis, Asian People proceed to be severely underrepresented in New York State Legislature and in Congress.”

A divided neighborhood has led to much less civic engagement, as Martha Ayon of Rego Park has skilled. Her neighborhood is represented by two state senate districts, leading to a scarcity of consideration to her district, she stated.

“My neighborhood has struggled to arrange a civic affiliation or democratic membership as a result of crossing the road results in completely different elected illustration,” Ayon testified.

Equally divided districts have been present in components of the Bronx, significantly within the neighborhood of Bedford Park, which is represented by three senate districts. This has resulted in little consideration paid to residents combating towards overdevelopment within the small neighborhood.

The fee will draft their preliminary maps by September fifteenth after which undergo one other spherical of public hearings to solicit suggestions earlier than going to the State Legislature. The physique will evaluate the maps throughout the begin of the legislative session in January to both approve or reject them. The maps have to be in place by March subsequent yr so candidates can start amassing signatures to get on the poll in June 2022.

Although the State Legislature will in the end determine on the district strains, OuYoung hopes the fee will respect the need of voters and function with none intervention by elected officers.

“It stays to be seen if they’ll put apart any kind of partisanship to do what the voters ask,” OuYoung stated.

Digital hearings for Bronx and Manhattan residents will happen on Monday, July twenty ninth at 2 p.m. Brooklyn and Staten Island residents will get the possibility to testify on Thursday, July twenty ninth at 2 p.m. To be taught extra in regards to the course of, click on right here.