NEW YORK — New Yorkers awoke this week to disappointment upon the release of the New York State Legislature’s proposed redistricting plans for our state and city, further piling on to the failure of the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) process last week. New Yorkers in 2014 voted for redistricting reform with the passage of constitutional amendments. Instead of abiding by the will of the people for a fairer and more transparent process, New York’s Legislature has reverted to its old ways, putting the ambitions of elected officials above the needs of New Yorkers. Much like the IRC’s dueling redistricting plans rejected by the Legislature, the Legislature’s own redistricting plans undermine the voting strength of New York City’s Latino, Black and Asian communities that form the backbone (and majority) of our City. We urge the Legislature to reject the proposed redistricting plans and instead adopt the Unity Map, in its entirety, for New York City.
The redistricting plans for Congressional, New York State Senate, and New York State Assembly districts proposed by the Legislature create new districts that are divorced from the reality of demographic changes revealed in the 2020 Census and completely fail to reflect the tremendous growth of New York City’s communities of color in the past decade. Black and Brown New Yorkers are haphazardly placed into districts without any focus on communities of interest and existing neighborhoods and a disregard for maintaining community built institutions within their home community districts. Many of the districts are contorted in incoherent ways that are not necessary, breaking apart communities and disenfranchising voters. The Unity Map that we propose empowers communities and keeps them whole.
The UNITY MAP COALITION, a coalition of the leading legal voting rights advocacy organizations representing people of color in New York City, unveiled its proposed redistricting plan for New York City late last year. In contrast to the maps proposed by the Legislature and the IRC, the Unity Map demonstrates that fair and equitable districts for all New Yorkers are possible, ensuring that all communities — particularly those most vulnerable — have full and fair political power and representation. Instead of focusing on partisan or incumbent advantage, our singular focus has been ensuring the City’s communities of color receive their fair proportion of voting power and electoral representation without reverting to a zero-sum political process whereby communities of color are pitted against one another. We understand that our strength lies in solidarity, recognizing and mapping for demographic growth and unification of historically divided communities of interest.
While the Legislature happily chose a few select portions of Unity Map districts to emulate in its plan, a few districts in isolation do not equal a comprehensive plan. The Legislature cannot selectively pick and choose Unity Map districts when it suits their agenda without adopting the plan in its entirety. We urge the full adoption of the Unity Map which was the result of hundreds of hours of thoughtful analysis and negotiation. The selection of the few elements legislators find beneficial undermines the Unity Map’s greater purpose and intent and does not fully protect the City’s communities of color. The Legislature cannot seek to hide behind elements of the Unity Map while failing to abide by its principles.
New Yorkers need a single unified redistricting plan that equitably benefits the interests of all, especially historically marginalized communities of color who together make up a majority of the City’s population. For decades, New York City’s Black, Asian and Latino communities have been irreparably harmed by electoral districts and voting laws that were enacted with the intent of our exclusion and the diminution of our voting power. Our communities have suffered from decades of gerrymandering — which rigged the electoral system against us — diminishing our electoral power and neglecting our communities. In New York City, our communities have been historically divided and under-resourced. For generations we’ve suffered the consequences of underperforming schools, crumbling roads and hospitals, underfunded infrastructure, gentrification, limited access to quality food and healthcare, increased toxic pollution, and a myriad of other problems. The Legislature’s proposed redistricting plans perpetuate these problems for New York City’s communities of color for another decade. Our communities cannot be forced to once again shoulder the brunt of unfair and inequitable redistricting for another ten years.
About the UNITY MAP COALITION
The Coalition has been at the forefront of nonpartisan redistricting to protect communities of color for the last three decades. During the last Redistricting cycle in 2010-11, the Coalition successfully advocated for the adoption of its historic Unity Map for the 2010 Redistricting Congressional districts in NYC, the State Senate and Assembly, and the New York City Council. This Coalition rewrote redistricting history in NYS and serves as a model for the nation of collective advocacy and power sharing by diverse racial and cultural communities within a jurisdiction.
About The Center For Law And Social Justice At Medgar Evers College
The mission of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College is to address racial justice issues by providing quality legal advocacy, conducting community education campaigns, facilitating research and building organizing capacity on behalf of New Yorkers of African descent and the disenfranchised. To learn more about CLSJ visit www.CLSJ.org.
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. To learn more about AALDEF, visit www.aaldef.org.
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