The saga on New York’s voting lines will finally come to an end this week, with time for the election season to start gearing up for June primaries.
On Monday, Jan. 31, with days to go until the state legislature’s vote, the Asian American Bar Association of NY (AABANY) picketed in front of the offices of the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR). The group demanded more public hearings and input before the official votes were handed down on voting lines.
AABANY was pushing for a ‘unity map,’which was drawn by civil rights and legal groups, since previous maps sliced up South Asian communities in Queens; Latino/ Hispanic communities in Sunset Park, Gowanus, and Park Slope neighborhoods in Brooklyn; and lower Manhattan’s Chinatown on the lower east side.
“We’re dealing with maps that no one has ever seen before,” said Marilyn Go of AABANY. “We appreciate the need to proceed quickly given the deadlines but the maps have to be drawn properly because they’re going to govern for the next 10 years.”
Voting lines across a state are voted on every 10 years, after the census, through a process called redistricting. After the failure of the bipartisan New York State Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) to unitely submit congressional and state legislative maps, which it was designed to do in 2014, the State Legislature is taking over in its original role in voting on redistricting maps for Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts.
Kyle Ishmael, executive director of Manhattan Democrats political club, said, “I think the goal always was to try to take it out of the legislature’s hands as much as possible and try to reach something widely understood as independent, but they couldn’t get there. And the lines obviously still need to be drawn.” Ishmael said that there’s hope legislators would draw lines that make sense, but he’s certainly in favor of more public engagement. It’s just unfortunate that there’s probably not enough time this week, he added.
City and State reported that the proposed congressional lines could help Democrats “flip several seats” in the 2022 elections. In a gerrymandering move, Democratic maps “add blue areas” to Republican-held districts on Long Island in New York City and upstate.
“The statutory deadline for the Independent Redistricting Commission to submit congressional and state legislative maps has passed. As per the New York State Constitution, it becomes the Legislature’s responsibility to consider fair maps that ensure all New Yorkers have equitable representation in their government,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a joint statement. “That is a duty we take very seriously. Given the expedited nature of the political calendar, we fully expect the Senate and Assembly to consider new fair maps in a timely manner,” they said.
So far, the more localized state Senate and Assembly maps have been released, also in favor of Democrats. The state Legislature is expected to approve new legislative and congressional lines by Wednesday or Thursday.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w