Every 10 years, the United States conducts a census of all of its residents. This count is used to make sure that all Americans are fairly represented by their government by apportioning the population into voting districts based on population density and geography.
As state legislatures and governors go about the business of figuring out exactly how the boundaries for legislative bodies as well as congressional districts will be laid out, it is inevitable that fights will ensue.
This year, New York State Senate Republicans are trying to use their slim majority to draw up a map that not even a mother could love.
The Legislative Task Force on Redistricting (LATFOR), which is essentially controlled by the Republican Senate, created a map that is so partisan and convoluted that it reeks of cronyism, cynicism, spite and deceit.
First of all, the Republicans are trying a cynical ploy to raise the number of Senate districts in New York State from 62 to 63. And, of course, the new seat being drawn up will not be designed to represent minority voters, who have dramatically increased since the last census. Instead, it will be an upstate seat-where the population declined over the same period.
What is more nefarious in this blatant act of gerrymandering is that it is an attempt to re-rig the political system, to wipe out a recent change to the law that counts inmates at their last known address rather than where they are imprisoned.
Before the change, the way inmates were counted meant that upstate’s predominantly white communities were overrepresented in terms of total political representation. Not only that, it also meant that upstate communities got more of the scarce financial resources than downstate’s predominant communities of color.
From Nassau County to Buffalo, the lines are being drawn to do the most damage to predominantly Black and Latino communities and their political strength. The goal of the completely white Senate Republican caucus is simple: They want to pit strong Black political leaders against each other and create weak new political districts. A clear example of this are the 20th and 25th senatorial voting districts.
The Senate Republicans’ plan would move Eric Adams’ district by two blocks, which means he would live outside the district he currently represents and in Sen. Velmanette Montgomery’s district instead. That pits two sitting Black state senators against each other and creates an open district with no incumbent, the 20th District.
This low blow by LATFOR is a direct result of the fact that Adams has been so vocal a thorn in the side of the Republican Senate leadership.
And the list goes on, with many examples of how this map makes the state Legislature whiter and whiter, even though this state and our country are changing their hue.
These proposed changes make it nearly impossible for Rochester to have any representation of color, because it divides the city into three districts, splintering minority communities.
This redistricting is a major civil rights issue for our community. We have fought so long and so hard for fair representation, and by the simple redrawing of lines on a map, so much progress can be taken away. Our community could be disenfranchised-the future of political and economic fairness and equity is at stake.
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stated that he will not support the LATFOR map as it stands, we implore him to go much further and state publicly that he will not support any map that does not preserve the voting power of all of New York State’s population, especially its communities of color that have so often received the short end of the stick.
The Senate GOP is grasping to hold on to its power, using the mapping process as their tool. This is ugly and distasteful. Senate Republicans are willing to disenfranchise our people across New York simply to protect their own interests.
The map has been drawn, but there is still time to fight it-and fight we must. If we let this map become the future of our voting districts, we will create a monster that will haunt us for decades to come. We must stop the GOP map to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of political power and financial resources for all.
Have your voice be heard. There are still hearings on the map being held in our communities. Speak out before it is too late.