Hispanic Group Wants Weiner's NY District Gone

By Cristian Salazar

The Associated Press

July 12, 2011

The diverse congressional district that Anthony Weiner vacated in the midst of a sexting scandal has become the latest battleground for a Latino organization that is laboring to increase the political clout of Hispanics in Congress.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, which is involved in redistricting fights in 10 jurisdictions throughout the Northeast and in Florida, is proposing that New York's 9th Congressional District be dissolved as the nation's political map is redrawn to reflect population shifts based on new census data. But such a proposal could irk Democratic leaders and even residents of Weiner's former district themselves.

"Weiner's departure presents probably the best opportunity to not only shore up the Latino and African American representation, but to do so with the least disruption," said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a Hispanic civil rights organization.

New York is losing two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of redistricting, a politically complex and contentious process. The 2010 census showed the state's population grew more slowly than the rest of the country. Hispanics were the only one of three major ethnic groups that grew - by 19 percent.

That means each of the new 27 congressional districts must have 717,707 people; but most currently have about 660,000. Each district has to expand in some direction - how is the question.

Cartagena said allowing neighboring districts to absorb portions of the 9th District will cause the least geographic and political disruption, because those districts will grow but stay roughly the same shape as they are now. Current districts with large Hispanic and black populations will retain their representation and incumbents will be able to protect their seats more easily.

"Eliminating Weiner's district would allow us to mitigate the effect of demographic change and gentrification," Cartagena said in an e-mail. He explained that it would allow surrounding districts to shift "somewhat eastwards."

The growth of Hispanics in the state overall, Cartagena said, is reason enough to call for protecting and even expanding their representation through the redistricting process that each state must undergo to redraw its congressional lines.

"I'm not asking for a handout," Cartagena said. "I'm asking for a recognition of the demographic reality."

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