New York Daily News – Asian-American voters in Queens and Brooklyn sued the governor and other state officials this week, saying their voting power is unfairly limited by the way the state’s legislative districts are drawn.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of four New Yorkers, arguing they must get equal political representation when the state rejiggers district lines after the most recent census.
“The current district lines are invalid under the U.S. Constitution and state law because Asian Americans’ votes count less than the votes of other New Yorkers,” said Glenn Magpantay, director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program.
The way lines are currently drawn, AALDEF argues, the city’s largest Asian-American neighborhoods are split up into different districts, breaking up what could be a powerful voting block.
While New York City’s Asian-American population spiked by 32% to over one million in the past ten years, according to the census, there is only one Asian-American representative in the entire state legislature – Flushing Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
Because the lines are currently drawn by a state task force largely made up of legislators themselves, critics say pols simply try to move boundaries to help their own party’s interest, sometimes creating wacky shapes.
Gov. Cuomo has said he will veto any redrawn map that is “not independent” or “partisan.”
But AALDEF is pushing for an independent “special master” to redraw the districts right away - so that potential candidates can prepare in time for the 2012 primaries.
Task force co-chair state Sen. Michael Nozzolio (R-Seneca Falls), who is named in the suit, said they are well aware the number of Asian New Yorkers has “skyrocketed,” and said that’s being taken into account.
“I know the Senate Republicans have been directed to do all we can to establish Asian preferential districts, reflecting the large growth of the Asian community in Queens over the past 10 years,” he said.
Co-chair state Assemblyman John McEneny (D-Albany) said the complaint is premature, and that they are on track to meet primary requirements.
“I expect that we will obey every deadline that we have to,” he said.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people that would like to draw the lines themselves and don’t trust the governmental process… Normally you would wait until a product was finished until you criticize.”
AALDEF’s complaint would add the four Asian-American voters to an existing lawsuit, Favors v. Cuomo, that already calls for an independent “special master” to draw new districts.
By Erica Pearson
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