NEW YORK — Today’s census data release marks the start of one of the most vital democratic processes in our country, the redrawing of electoral districts. When the process is done fairly and transparently, it ensures that electoral districts are drawn in a manner that is representative of the people it serves. When redistricting is instead utilized to facilitate incumbent or partisan gerrymandering, we then end up with districts that provide our respective communities of color with less electoral power and representation. We enter the current redistricting cycle for the first time without the pre-clearance protections provided by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and an ongoing national concerted effort to restrict and limit the right to vote. We stand united and firm in our commitment to ensuring that any redistricting maps promulgated by the New York Independent Redistricting Commission and adopted by the New York legislature will comply with Section 2 of the Act, and not drawn in a manner which will dilute the long-fought and increasing political voting power of marginalized communities.
The Unity Coalition which is comprised of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College will once again reunite to meet with New York communities of color and seek to draw and advocate for maps which respect communities of interest and defend electoral opportunity among historically marginalized Latino, Black, and Asian communities in New York. With redistricting efforts occurring every ten years, it is imperative that our collective efforts include the voices of our respective communities in drawing maps that safeguard and empower their ability to vote for representatives at all levels of government.
New York is also entering its first redistricting cycle with the Independent Redistricting Commission in place. While we commend efforts to make this process fair and transparent, we stand vigilant against efforts that will render our communities powerless in the electoral space. Over the past few weeks, we have seen community members testify in front of the commission providing them with insights and a real perspective on what their communities look like, the current district lines that undermine them, and what they hope the commission will consider when drawing districts. As legal advocates, we hope the commission will fulfill its state constitutional mandate and uphold the principles laid out in the constitution and ensure congressional and state legislative districts protect communities of interest.
The Unity Coalition will continue to stand by a redistricting process that is (1) open in the public’s ability to actively engage at every step of the process; (2) draws maps in a manner which accurately reflects changes in the population; and (3) focuses on safeguarding racial minority groups from maps which have the effect of diminishing their ability to elect candidates of their choice. We look forward to participating in redistricting efforts and beginning the process of protecting the voting rights of the most vulnerable in our society.
“Redistricting is an essential component to our democracy which in theory enables Latino and other communities of interest to having a voice in electing candidates of their choosing to represent them,” said Jose Perez, Deputy General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “LatinoJustice with our Unity Coalition partners will be actively monitoring New York’s redistricting process to ensure it is transparent and equitable in the way districts are drawn and that communities of interest are protected. We will again work collectively as we did last decade to ensure that this redistricting cycle does not run counter to the protections mandated by the Voting Rights Act and the constitutional principle of one person, one vote holds true.”
Jerry Vattamala, Director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF, said, “Asian Americans continue to be the fastest growing racial group in the country and the redistricting process must reflect the changing shifts in population. The newly released census data must accurately reflect the growth in Asian American communities. Asian Americans are a protected group under the federal Voting Rights Act and the redistricting process must ensure that Asian Americans and other racial minorities have a full and fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
“Voting is the right of every citizen and one of the most important and powerful tools for equity, justice, and inclusion. Given our country’s documented history of denying the right to vote to Black and Brown communities and fueling state-sanctioned discrimination, it is imperative that New York State uphold its commitment to a redistricting process that is fair, equitable, and transparent, says The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College General Counsel Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq. “New York’s newly drawn maps must protect vulnerable communities from gerrymandering and the diminishment of their ability to select candidates that represent the will of all New Yorkers, and not simply the privileged and powerful.”
LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For nearly 50 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout the country. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit www.LatinoJustice.org.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a New York-based national organization founded in 1974, protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all. AALDEF focuses on critical issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, voting rights and democracy, economic justice for workers, educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence.
About The Center For Law And Social Justice At Medgar Evers College
CLSJ’s mission is to provide quality legal advocacy, training, and expert services to people of African descent and other marginalized groups. CLSJ conducts research, advocacy and litigation on racial justice issues on behalf of community organizations and groups that promote human, national, and international understanding. For additional information, please visit: www.clsj.org.
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