AALDEF’s Preliminary Analysis of Draft Maps Released by NYS Independent Redistricting Commission
NEW YORK, New York — Today, the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) released two sets of draft redistricting maps that have the potential to drastically shift power for voters in New York. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is concerned that the IRC’s drafting process has failed to provide New Yorkers with sufficient lead time and resources to share feedback on these draft maps and that these shortcomings may undermine the voting rights of communities of color.
Asians are the fastest growing racial group in New York City and the country, and were the main driver of population growth in the city. The Asian population grew by 43% in Brooklyn, by 29% in Queens, and 24% in Manhattan. The new district lines at all levels must reflect the tremendous growth in this community and the demographic shifts that have occurred over the last decade.
“Redistricting is a critical part of our democratic system and is supposed to reflect demographic shifts in the past decade”said Jerry Vattamala, director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program.“In coordination with the Unity Map Coalition, AALDEF will carefully review the draft maps to ensure that they do not dilute the voting rights of Asians, Blacks, and Latinos (the three legally protected racial groups in New York City).”
The IRC released two sets of plans at all three legislative district levels, the “Letters” set and the “Names” set. Unfortunately, the “Names” set was less accessible, so AALDEF will provide preliminary analysis on that set in the coming days. It is telling that the chosen “names” do not include most of the sixteen Asian American Communities of Interest (COI) that AALDEF submitted to the IRC to assist in the drafting process. It appears that the “Names” maps made little effort to keep these communities together in new districts and do not reflect the demographic shifts in the last decade.
**State Assembly **The “Letters” plan essentially maintained three Asian majority districts:
District AN – Flushing (69% Asian)
District Y – Flushing/Fresh Meadows (60% Asian)
District AW – Sunset Park/Bensonhurst (58% Asian)
It also created an additional Asian majority assembly district:
District AI – Woodside/Elmhurst (57% Asian)
Districts with large Asian populations were essentially maintained in:
District AU – Bensonhurst (41% Asian)
District BM – Chinatown/Lower East Side (38% Asian)
District Z – Bayside/Auburndale (41% Asian)
The most significant and welcomed improvement appears to be in District AL – Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park (37% Asian CVAP). The proposed district vastly improves the configuration for this historically disenfranchised community of interest, by keeping the community boundaries almost entirely together. This community is currently divided among seven assembly districts. We are pleased that the “Letters” plan responded to the community maps and testimony that were submitted.
The “Letters” plan also made improvements to District X – Briarwood/Jamaica Hills and Hillside Avenue Corridor (43% Asian), and no longer extends this district beyond the Van Wyck Expressway.
**State Senate **The “Letters” plan maintained an Asian majority in District AV – Flushing/Elmhurst (65% Asian), and essentially maintained District L – Bayside (42% Asian).
The most significant improvement appears to be in District G – Sunset Park/Bensonhurst (46% Asian). Sunset Park is currently grouped with communities that do not share many characteristics or concerns, such as Brownsville and Crown Heights in an extremely odd district configuration. Bensonhurst is currently divided among several different districts as well. Keeping communities of interest together and grouping these communities with similar surrounding communities, benefit all residents. This configuration remedies some of the divisions caused by the extreme gerrymandering of these communities in the last redistricting cycle.
**Congress **The “Letters” plan essentially maintained District D – Flushing (41% Asian) and District K – Chinatown/Sunset Park (24% Asian).
**The UNITY MAP COALITION **AALDEF is a member of the UNITY MAP COALITION, alongside Latino Justice/PRLDEF and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. The Unity Map Coalition released a joint statement on this recent development, available here.
AALDEF will provide further analysis of the draft maps in the coming days, as we examine both plans in more detail.