Civil rights advocates propose their own redistricting maps


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WNYC — As we’ve noted before, the redistricting process is more than simply Democrats and Republicans carving out the most advantageous districts for themselves. For communities-especially ones that have historically been under served – this once-a-decade process provides an opportunity to push for political boundaries that take their interests into account.

This week a coalition of minority civil rights and social justice groups made a direct appeal for those interests. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, LatinoJustice and others have come out with their own maps for New York State Assembly and Senate districts. The commission in charge of drawing the lines, LATFOR, has put out a call for maps previously.

These “communities of interest” maps stuck to the basic redistricting rules – no more than a plus or minus five percent population variance, conforming to the Federal Civil Rights Act rules on protected minority communities (duh), while trying to create districts in New York City that, in their words, “reflects the city’s changing demographics and protects the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans.”

The new maps, in essence, boost the number of minority majority districts. Specifically:

  • Increasing the number of majority Asian American Assembly districts from one to four-three in Queens and one in Brooklyn.
  • Creating a majority Asian American Senate district out in Flushing, and increasing the percentages of Asians in two other districts. Currently there are no majority Asian American Senate districts in the city.
  • Going from two to five majority Latino Assembly districts, with two districts being created in northern Manhattan and one out in Queens.
  • In the Senate, there would be two additional Latino majority districts-on centered in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, and a redrawn district in the Bronx.
  • Majority African American districts throughout the city have been preserved.

The new maps are below.

According to AALDEF’s executive director Margaret Fung, the maps have been submitted to the LATFOR committee. She said the committee was expected to present its first draft map in early November, with a new round of public comment after. After that the process often devolves into legal limbo, as the Department of Justice has to review and clear the lines, and lawsuits are filed by groups who felt the process violated their rights.

It’s through that lens these maps can be partially viewed.

“If for some reason the legislature does not adopt a map that protects the voting rights of communities of color, we would obviously have to consider taking legal action,” Fung said.

This isn’t to say LATFOR won’t take the maps into account. In fact, it could make their lives a lot easier. Of course, there is one group who will likely not be pleased by the maps: the incumbents who could see radically different voters under these new lines. All of the districts were drawn, as they say, “incumbent blind.”

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Colby Hamilton for WNYC Empire Blog

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