On Monday, February 13, U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry requested that a “Special Master” be appointed to draw a New York redistricting plan following the lawsuit Favors v. Cuomo filed by New York voters, including four Asian American voters represented by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). Judge Irizarry further asked the Chief Judge of the 2nd Circuit to appoint a three judge panel to review the redistricting lawsuit.
In December, AALDEF, together with pro bono counsel Kaye Scholer LLP, filed a Complaint-In-Intervention in Favors v. Cuomo on behalf of Asian American voters because the two entities charged with drawing district lines, the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) and the New York State Legislature, had not released new maps in time for the 2012 primaries. AALDEF’s complaint requested that an independent party or “Special Master” be appointed to redraw New York Senate, Assembly, and Congressional district lines, taking into account new 2010 Census data.
Although LATFOR released a Senate and Assembly redistricting plan in January, the new proposed lines are not without controversy. LATFOR created a new majority Asian American Senate district, but the contorted new district unnecessarily bisects the neighborhood of Flushing, which had been left compact in AALDEF’s own proposed plan, the Unity Map. Moreover, while LATFOR increased the number of Asian American majority Assembly districts from one to three, the South Asian community of Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park continues to remain divided between multiple Assembly districts. Finally, no Congressional lines have been proposed.
“This interim decision in our lawsuit is an important step forward for Asian Americans and other communities of color, who have been advocating for equal political access,” said Jerry Vattamala, staff attorney with the Democracy Project at AALDEF. “Appointing an independent ‘Special Master’ is the appropriate recourse to protect New York’s voters and ensure that the growing Asian American population and other communities of color have fair representation under a new redistricting plan.”
Read the decision (pdf)
Image: Meng He/Flickr