Court Adopts New York Congressional Redistricting Plan Mirrored after Unity Plan

A three-judge panel has approved a new Congressional redistricting map for New York State that closely mirrors a plan created by a coalition of groups representing minority voters in New York.

The new Congressional map will now determine the election districts for the upcoming 2012 Congressional elections. The Unity Map, created by lawyers and analysts from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, The Center for Law and Social Justice, based at Medgar Evers College, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the National Institute for Latino Politics, was designed to protect the voting rights of communities of color. The project included months of community input, data analysis and mapping.

The three-judge panel approved the new Congressional redistricting map as part of their decision in Favors v. Cuomo.

Under the Unity Map, there will be four congressional districts that will each be populated by more than 44% Hispanics. Two districts, District 15 and District 13 will have Hispanic populations over 50%. Previously, only Congressman Jose Serrano’s district in the Bronx had a Hispanic population over 50%.

The Unity Plan was a victory for all people of color, but it especially recognized the growth of Hispanics in the city. Latinos are New York City's largest minority group, constituting 29% of the City's 8.1 million residents.

“Redistricting is never perfect, and even less so when marginalized Latino communities are concerned,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Given the needs of the entire Latino community in NYC, the court-ordered plan in Favors v. Cuomo is an adequate compromise that for the first time creates a second Latino majority Congressional District while still maintaining two additional, effective Latino plurality districts – an important milestone nonetheless. Now it’s time for Latinos to focus on the worst part of NY redistricting: the discriminatory lines for State legislative seats that were passed and approved by the Governor in the middle of the night.”

Jackson Chin, senior counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF said, “Albany’s legislative impasse on Congressional redistricting pushed this important matter before a federal court. LatinoJustice’s pro-active role in conveying the community’s aspirations, delivering credible maps and data to this Court has served the Latino community well into the next decade.”

Angelo Falcón, President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP), one of the founding organizations of the New York Voting Rights Consortium, stated, "We congratulate the courts on their ability to take on this important process and compensate for the lack of leadership from the state legislature and Governor to draw these Congressional plans in a timely and thoughtful manner. It was gratifying to see that the Unity Map proposals we collectively submitted provided a template for the court's final maps. We also welcome the court's intervention in the final drawing of the state legislative lines to assure that the voting rights of Latinos and other communities of color and all New Yorkers, are protected, something which our Governor and legislative leaders are obviously incapable of doing on their own.”

The Unity Map preserved the number of Congressional districts for the City's 2.2 million Black residents, who constitute 26% of the City's total population.

“The Center for Law and Social Justice is very pleased with the congressional map for New York that has been ordered by the federal three judge court today,” said Esmeralda Simmons, Esq., Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice. “As a member of the Unity Plan Coalition, we worked hard to produce a congressional plan for New York City that respects the voting rights of all three population groups that are protected by the Voting Rights Act in New York City: Blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Upon our review of the Court’s plan, it is clear that the Court adopted a substantial number of the recommendations made by the Unity Map Coalition. In particular, in regard to Black New Yorkers, it maintains the number of congressional seats that cover Black communities and thereby provides Black New Yorkers with the opportunity to elect candidates of our choice. In addition, the Court’s map keeps communities of interests of Black New Yorkers intact. The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY is proud to have labored with LatinoJustice, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Institute for Latino Policy to produce a map that has opens voting rights opportunities for people of color in New York City. United, we have won!”

Redistricting -- the redrawing of political district lines -- takes place every 10 years, after new Census data are released. Current district lines have been major barriers to Black, Hispanic and Asian-American political participation.

Under the new Congressional map adopted by the court, District 6 (Asian VAP 37.9%*) corresponds to AALDEF's Unity Map by retaining the Asian American community in Queens (in Flushing/Bayside, Elmhurst and Briarwood/Jamaica Hills) within one district. After the incumbent representative for the District 6 Congressional seat announced last week that he will not run, District 6 is now an open congressional seat for the 2012 elections.

Because of the significant Asian American population, poll sites in Queens (where District 6 is located) are required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide voting language assistance and bilingual ballots in Chinese, Korean, and, since the 2010 Census, Asian Indian.

AALDEF has been at the forefront of advocating for the Asian American community in the Congressional redistricting process, including drafting and submitting its own redistricting proposal, as well as filing a complaint-in-intervention on behalf of Asian American voters in Favors v. Cuomo.

Jerry Vattamala, staff attorney at AALDEF: “The new Congressional redistricting map is a significant achievement in protecting the voting rights of the growing Asian American voting population in New York State and providing them equal representation. In particular, District 6 under the new Congressional Map -- with Asian VAP 37.9% -- corresponds to the Unity Map by retaining the Asian American community in Queens (in Flushing/Bayside, Elmhurst and Briarwood/Jamaica Hills) within one district. We have fought for the voting rights of Asian Americans throughout every step of the Congressional redistricting process, and we are pleased that the new map takes into account our advocacy.”

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