Governor Must Veto Senate Redistricting Plan

The new Senate redistricting plan passed by the New York State Legislature grossly disenfranchises Latinos across the State and the proposed constitutional amendment fails to create any meaningful reform, according to lawyers at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. LatinoJustice PRLDEF is asking Governor Cuomo to veto both pieces of legislation.

If the governor signs the bills, the ability of Latinos, the largest and fastest growing racial minority group in the State, to elect candidates of their choice would be severely diminished in every election for the next ten years.

The Senate Plan (Senate Bill 6696) abandons any form of minimal compliance with the Voting Rights Act mandate of preserving communities of interest. It permits the wholesale malapportionment of downstate New York City and Long Island districts and draws lines to create non-compact districts in violation of basic redistricting principals, according to a letter sent to the governor.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF will continue to fight for fairness for Latinos and plans to petition the Department of Justice to deny the implementation of the Senate redistricting plan for failing to comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which covers Bronx, Manhattan and New York counties.

“We hope Governor Cuomo lives up to his promise to veto this hyper-gerrymandered Senate Redistricting Plan as it will disenfranchise Latinos across the State for the next ten years,” Jose Perez, Associate General Counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, explains. “The proposed constitutional amendment offers no consolation as it fails to reform the redistricting process and will simply result in Latinos being deprived of the ability to elect candidates of their choice as the Voting Rights Act requires.”

The Senate plan reduces the number of districts in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan in which Latino voters are in the majority from three districts in the Unity Plan to two districts. The Unity Plan was conceived by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Institute for Latino Policy and the Center for Law and Social Justice of Medgar Evers .

More broadly, African-American and Latino communities in Long Island, Manhattan, as well as the Bronx are split up and disintegrated into various districts fracturing their voting power, despite the fact that the population growth of Latinos and blacks in most of those areas was significant this decade.

For example, in the Senate plan’sDistrict 34 which encompasses parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, the grossly non-compact, bizarre-shaped district holds only 38% Latinos. LatinoJustice PRLDEF was able to draw a compact, majority Latino district that kept the interconnected Latino communities in the east Bronx together in a single district. Thus, under the Voting Rights Act, the Senate Plan illegally dilutes Latino’s votingrights in contrast to the Unity Plan which allows these communities to elect candidates of their choice.

In Senate District 29, the district which extends from the South Bronx to Manhattan, it separates the Latino community in East Harlem from Harlem centered District 30. In contrast the Unity Plan creates a Bronx/Manhattan district that keeps East Harlem intact. The proposed Senate district also needlessly splits the South Bronx communities of Concourse Village, East Course, Melrose, and Mount Eden.

Though the governor has acknowledged the hyper partisan and gerrymandered nature of the Senate Plan, he would justify the possible approval of the plan on grounds that the redistricting process will be dramatically improved for the next elections in ten years due to the constitutional amendment proposed by Legislative leaders. The constitutional amendment offered by the Legislature does not actually reform the redistricting process. Instead, it keeps in place many of the very practices that everyone agrees needs to be reformed.

The governor has the responsibility to veto these two bills.

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