AALDEF criticizes redistricting plan that splits Asian American voting strength in Boston’s Chinatown/South End community
AALDEF urges Boston City Council to keep Chinatown/South End whole
BOSTON — In response to Boston City Council’s court-ordered mandate to redraw its district lines, Bethany Li delivered the below remarks, accusing the council of unconstitutionally prioritizing white voting power at the expense of the Chinatown/South End community of interest. Bethany Li is the legal director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). Read AALDEF’s letter to Council President Ed Flynn and the members of Boston City Council regarding the ongoing city council redistricting process here.
Thank you to Chinese Progressive Association for organizing this today and thank you to all of the Chinatown/South End residents for making it today.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is a national civil rights organization based in New York that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. We’ve used litigation and legislation and organizing work to make sure that our communities are protected in redistricting processes across the country.
As you’ve heard already today, Chinatown/South End must be preserved together. As the City Council works to redraw its district lines as a result of this litigation, it is imperative that this historic community of interest be kept intact, and that the City Council not improperly prioritize white voting power at our community’s expense. AALDEF has submitted our comments to Council President Flynn and we urge all members of City Council to reject the harmful and likely unconstitutional plans, and instead to adopt a plan that maintains the integrity of Chinatown/South End as a community of interest.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) prohibits city council district boundaries from being drawn such that they result in the dilution of minority group members’ votes. Let’s not be a city that contributes to the chipping away of the protections and the strength of the Voting Rights Act.
We were dismayed by the statements made by council members during the City Council Committee on Civil Rights and Immigrant Advancement meeting this past Monday (May 15, 2023). These comments suggest that the proposed plans to divide the Chinatown/South End community of interest reflect council members’ unconstitutional preference for drawing districts that protect and expand white voting power in South Boston over federally protected minority communities. The proposed plans under consideration fracture and inflict real harm on the Chinatown/South End community and likely violate the Equal Protection Clause. The power of an individual vote should not be diluted simply because they are Chinese.
While the City Council must redraw its district lines, AALDEF cautions against plans that violate the Voting Rights Act and Equal Protection Clause by cracking such a historic and growing minority community of interest in furtherance of maximizing white voting power. A redistricting plan that keeps Chinatown/South End whole would comply with the requirements of the historic VRA and the Equal Protection Clause, as well as the redistricting criteria laid out in the Boston City Charter. Further, adopting a redistricting plan that keeps the Chinatown/South End community of interest intact would enable federally protected language and ethnic minority groups to be meaningfully represented and have equal opportunity to participate in the political process.
After decades of historic disenfranchisement, racial and language minority groups including the Chinese American community are defending our right to have a voice in this country. The power and the strength of the Voting Rights Act compels this protection. We are going to fight today and every day to fulfill its promise.
For additional information, contact:
Stuart J. Sia