New York State Redistricting

The Empire

Asian civic group is 'pleased' with new districts, with big qualifications

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which was part of the coalition that released the Unity Maps, sent out a review of the new redistricting proposal. While they were happy to see an increase in Asian-majority districts, the statement wasn't without qualification:

SD 16 - Under LATFOR's proposal, there is one Asian American majority State Senate district (52.20% Non-Hispanic Asian voting age population (VAP)), which includes Flushing, Queens. Currently, there are no Asian American majority Senate districts.

"We're glad that LATFOR recognized the importance of creating a majority Asian American Senate district," said AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung. "But the contorted district lines of SD 16 split the neighborhood of Flushing. A compact district in Flushing-Bayside should be drawn to keep Asian American communities of interest together in these neighborhoods, as we demonstrated in the Unity Map."

Under LATFOR's proposal, there are three proposed majority Asian American State Assembly districts[.]


"As a general matter, we are pleased that LATFOR has increased the number of Asian American majority Assembly districts from one to three," said Jerry Vattamala, staff attorney with AALDEF's Democracy Project. He added that a majority Asian American Assembly district has also been created for the first time in Sunset Park and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Under the Unity Map, AALDEF proposed four Asian American majority State Assembly districts, with the fourth in the neighborhood of Elmhurst.

"While AD 49 is similar to our Unity Map, the South Asian community of Richmond Hill-South Ozone Park continues to remain divided between multiple State Assembly districts," said Vattamala. "The Unity Map would have kept the Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park neighborhoods substantially together within a single Assembly district."

Many of these groups are going to start releasing their own detailed analysis of the LATFOR lines--as AALDEF says it will--so stay tuned.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Friday, January 27, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

Senator Mike Nozzolio on the maps.

Senator Mike Gianaris on the maps.

Reporters Kyle Hughes of and Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union on the maps.

And political strategist & University of Albany adjunct professor Bruce Gyory on anything other than the maps.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

Cuomo: I'd veto these lines

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This statement was just sent over by Governor Andrew Cuomo's spokesman, Josh Vlasto:

At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the Governor. We need a better process and product.


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The Empire

NYPIRG: Senate's maps 'the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history'

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney has already whipped up an analysis of the new legislative lines. He choose district population variation--the amount each district is from the ideal average based on the total population--as the "yardstick" to measure how representative the districts are. A big concern for gerrymandering is the spread between the districts that are under and over populated.

Packing people (a high positive deviation) into districts in one place can allow you to under populate (a high negative deviation) other districts, allowing for more districts in partisanly-friendly areas--something both the Assembly and Senate have done in the past.

"The typical deviation from the ideal population is one of the few completely objective criteria that can be used," Mahoney writes in an email. "While judging this set of proposed maps by this yardstick, the Senate’s maps are clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history."

Here's his breakdown on the Senate side:

Senate: Districts 3% or further from ideal population:

1984: 0

1992: 0

2002: 19

2012: 50

He also took a look at how the lines would far based on the 1 percent variation Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his independent redistricting legislation last year:

1984: 44 out of 61

1992: 47 out of 61

2002: 11 out of 62

2012: 3 out of 63

On the Assembly side Mahoney notes that, by this measurement, the Assembly districts actually sees things improving slightly since the last redistricting:

Assembly: Districts 3% or further from ideal population:

1984: 15

1992: 49

2002: 70

2012: 67


Assembly: Districts within 1% of ideal population:

1984: 92

1992: 46

2002: 18

2012: 26

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The Empire

Good gov coalition drops 'nonpartisan' from redistricting lingo

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

[Note: NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney left a response in the comments section in reaction to my post. I've added his comments to the very end as a rebuttal.]

Or The Life Cycle of Political Reform

It seems like a well rehearsed script by now:

1. Some insidery government operation is about to get under way, full of anticipated opaque backroom dealings and partisan manipulations.

2. Good government groups, and the political opposition, make a tremendous noise about fairness, openness, and a government for, of, and by the people.

3. The insidery government operation makes noise about doing the right thing. Then they go about doing exactly what everyone was scared they'd do.

4. The political opposition screams bloody murder. And good government groups walk back their rhetoric, talk of compromise, and figure out how to be on the same stage as the insidery government operation folks when the deal gets signed.

The script is entering its fourth and final act for the state's redistricting process. After telling everyone they were interested in fairness and doing things transparently, Senate Republicans--aided and abetted by their colleagues in the Assembly's Democratic majority--last Friday surreptitiously revealed the final piece in the puzzle that will help to keep them in the majority.

This, despite being decisively in the minority when it comes to voter registration. In fact, there are more people now enrolled in no party than enrolled in the Republican Party. Likewise, across the state, Democratic Senate candidates, taken as whole, got almost 500,000 votes than their collective counterparts in the last Senate election cycle.

These are just facts.

But so is this: unless Governor Andrew Cuomo or a judge intervenes, New York's State Senate will have 63 seats next year, and they will be drawn in such a way as to protect the minority majority Senate Republicans.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

If Spitzer was the luv guv, could Cuomo be the beluved guv? Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carroll joins Susan with his latest survey of registered voters which gives an early Christmas present to Governor Cuomo. The highest approval ratings of his tenure: 68 to 17 percent of voters approve of the job the Governor is doing. The Governor even has 63% approval among the GOP. Can it be sustained?

Advocates for the developmentally disabled are watching the Governor like a hawk this week waiting to see if he’ll sign legislation to create an abuse prevention notification system. Joining us will be the sponsor of the legislation in Assembly (A8330), Harvey Weisenberg and Bridgit Burke, an Associate Clinical Professor & Director of the Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic at Albany Law School.

Calling all artistes! The lines that designate voting districts in the state have been given two thumbs down by such notable critics as Common Cause, so the critics have turned the tables, developing an on-line mapping tool for people like you to give it a shot. At the same time, the group has come up with its own version of maps, “drawn according to good government principles”. Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner shows off her collection.

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The Empire

Common Cause submits its own redistricting maps, drawn on a blank slate

Monday, December 19, 2011

The good-government group, and regular critic of New York’s legislature-led redistricting process, todayunveiled its proposed maps for both the state legislature and Congress. The lines were drawn wholly divorced from the current maps and who the representatives are, according to Common Cause. They say they began with the most basic geographic boundaries—towns, cities and county lines—before adding demographic data to create what they say are non-partisan alternatives to gerrymandered districts.

“We have been outspoken about the problems with the current process, which is characterized by partisanship and political self-interest,” said Common Cause’s executive director Susan Lerner during a conference call. “Our goal has been to show that there is no practical impediment—it’s only a political one—to achieving fair, non-politicized district maps.”

Common Cause’s maps were released in partnership with Newsday, and the interactive map database “U Map NY” is located here.

Let’s take a look at these by legislative level, and keep it focused on the city.

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The Empire

On-air on WNYC--gentrification and the black vote in NYC

Monday, December 05, 2011

I got the chance to appear on WNYC today talking about my piece on the decline in the black population in New York City and how it's playing out in the 11th Congressional District as we move through the redistricting process.

Not everyone agrees with my analysis. Over at Room Eight, one of the first real New York political blogs, the blogger Gatemouth took me to task for what he saw was misleading stats in my post. I responded to his critique, pointing out that he really didn't disagree with my stats or my ultimate analysis, just the diagnosis--gentrification--of why the Voting Rights Act-protected11th was increasingly less black.

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The Empire

Cuomo invokes "chaos" in redistricting

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Update below.

Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared onthe Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter this morning, where he talked redistricting. Both YNN's State of Politics and the Times-Union Capitol Confidential blogs have write-ups on the conversation.

The topic was undoubtedly spurred by today's polls showing New Yorkers remain convinced some degree of independence is needed in the redistricting process. The Governor admitted that his long-voiced plan to veto the legislature's plan, though, wouldn't necessarily mean better results:

The veto really would inject a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty that really would be in no one’s best interest.

TU's Jimmy Vielkind saw the comments as an acknowledgment that Cuomo's threat might not be as rock solid as it appears:

For months, Cuomo has used the veto threat as a stick while negotiations with the legislature continue: there are now two proposals advanced by good-government groups to reform the redistricting process, both softer than the bill Cuomo delivered to legislators in the winter and which went nowhere. Today, Cuomo’s suggesting his stick, in the Rooseveltian sense, might not be so big.

Nick Reisman at the State of Politics Blog doesn't see the Governor's statements as backing down:

But Cuomo wasn’t walking back his plan to strike down lines drawn by lawmakers, either, or his opposition to boundaries that are political.

The governor, rather, noted the legal nuance is a bit more complicated than simply sending the matter to the courts.

Maybe. But if the Governor's not willing to call back the legislature and he's not psyched about the legal prospect of a veto (sending the lines to the courts), then the only room left is negotiation. And that will mean, at some level, compromise.

Which, in the end, is what will likely happen: the Governor's office will undoubtedly be working on legislators to put something out the Governor can say is fair and nonpartisan, while legislators put together the best maps they can under the circumstances.


David King with Gotham Gazette makes this point about the Governor's comments:

Good government groups seem to be taking the comments in stride. A number of independent redistricting advocates have been saying that a veto could cause chaos thanks to the possibility of the state moving to an earlier primary date. They note that Cuomo’s comments only show that he is in touch with the realities of the situation. The courts have never been exactly anxious to get involved in redistricting.

Since the real issue is whether Senate Republicans are able to draw themselves a majority through this process, the question really is will Cuomo go toe-to-toe over lines drawn by the Senate majority?

King notes, in a post yesterday, that Senate Democrats are worried his relationship with Republicans could keep him from doing just that.

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The Empire

The Voting Rights Act and redistricting in New York

Friday, October 21, 2011

President Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law (The US Library of Congress / Warren K. Leffler)

Last week we tried a thought experiment on the Empire. Following up on our reporting on ethnic and racial minority groups’ efforts during the redistricting process to have lines drawn that better served “communities of interest” (i.e. racial and ethnic groups), we took up one of the ideas floating around. Is it possible to create a Congressional district in Queens that was at least 40 percent Asian?

The short answer was, yes—see below.

But, it turns out, just because it’s possible to draw a 40 percent Asian district doesn’t mean it’s legal, if even likely, thanks in part to the long shadow cast by the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.

But isn’t the VRA (that’s the cool way to refer to it) all about helping minority groups, like, vote?

It is. But it’s more than that. Let’s take a step back to review what the VRA is, how it impacts and affects us here in New York, specifically during the redistricting process. Then we’ll get to why our 40 percent Asian district in Queens would never fly.

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The Empire

Civil rights advocates propose their own redistricting maps

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

As we've noted before, the redistricting process is more than simply Democrats and Republicans carving out the most advantageous districts for themselves. For communities--especially ones that have historically been under served--this once-a-decade process provides an opportunity to push for political boundaries that take their interests into account.

This week a coalition of minority civil rights and social justice groups made a direct appeal for those interests. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, LatinoJustice and others have come out with their own maps for New York State Assembly and Senate districts. The commission in charge of drawing the lines, LATFOR, has put out a call for maps previously.

These "communities of interest" maps stuck to the basic redistricting rules--no more than a plus or minus five percent population variance, conforming to the Federal Civil Rights Act rules on protected minority communities (duh), while trying to create districts in New York City that, in their words, "reflects [the city's] changing demographics and protects the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans."

The new maps, in essence, boost the number of minority majority districts. Specifically:

  • Increasing the number of majority Asian American Assembly districts from one to four--three in Queens and one in Brooklyn.
  • Creating a majority Asian American Senate district out in Flushing, and increasing the percentages of Asians in two other districts. Currently there are no majority Asian American Senate districts in the city.
  • Going from two to five majority Latino Assembly districts, with two districts being created in northern Manhattan and one out in Queens.
  • In the Senate, there would be two additional Latino majority districts--on centered in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, and a redrawn district in the Bronx.
  • Majority African American districts throughout the city have been preserved.

The new maps are below.

According to AALDEF's executive director Margaret Fung, the maps have been submitted to the LATFOR committee. She said the committee was expected to present its first draft map in early November, with a new round of public comment after. After that the process often devolves into legal limbo, as the Department of Justice has to review and clear the lines, and lawsuits are filed by groups who felt the process violated their rights.

It's through that lens these maps can be partially viewed.

"If for some reason the legislature does not adopt a map that protects the voting rights of communities of color, we would obviously have to consider taking legal action," Fung said.

This isn't to say LATFOR won't take the maps into account. In fact, it could make their lives a lot easier. Of course, there is one group who will likely not be pleased by the maps: the incumbents who could see radically different voters under these new lines. All of the districts were drawn, as they say, "incumbent blind."

Unity Map Packet (3)

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The Empire

Beyond red and blue: Redistricting and the deeper fight for 'nonpartisan' lines

Monday, October 03, 2011

Assemblyman McEneny, left, and Senator Nozzolio, right, at the Manhattan LATFOR meeting earlier this month. (Courtesy of the LATFOR Committee.)

Depending on where you stand, the decennial redistricting process can be synonymous with high-stakes political gamesmanship, craven partisan manipulation, or the most boring of insider political baseball. Regardless of which version you favor, it's usually cast through the two-toned prism of Republican versus Democratic interests battling it out for control of political turf.

But that blue or red-hued view often overlooks the regional and demographic dimensions of redistricting. For starters, there are significant differences between the interests of upstate and downstate New York that go beyond just the typical partisan split.

“Downstate, the focus can sometimes shift to…a demographic point of view," said Ryan Moses, former New York State Republican Party executive director and currently partner with the Albany-based political consulting firm Capitol Public Strategies. “Which is a little different from upstate, where the population is less diverse, but just more focused on making sure it [redistricting] makes more sense geographically."

Typically the divide is along partisan lines, with upstate, often Republican-leaning areas more concerned with the way towns and counties are divided, and downstate, often Democratic-leaning districts taking racially and ethnically-based “communities of interests” into account. But the partisanship, says Moses, is only part of the political picture.

“There's politics at play there,” he said. “Maybe not Republican-Democrat politics, but certainly ethnic politics, which, in New York, as you know, is a big factor."

Downstate racial and ethnic interests are hoping to become even bigger factors in the redistricting process. In a sense, this is a one-shot process: political lines are being drawn for the next ten years, and this is a singular opportunity to get what they see as their rightful slice of the political pie. For them, the partisanship is secondary, which puts them directly in the path of the traditional redistricting process.

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The Empire

New York has many examples--good and bad--of what redistricting could look like

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Every ten years New York goes through a process of redrawing its state legislative and congressional boundaries. The mutated district gerrymandering and political cynicism that comes out of this process have led to calls for change.  A coalition of good government groups, former and current elected officials, and concerned citizens have pushed for an independent process for creating new districts. Get politicians out of the way, the thinking goes, and you’ll have districts that better reflect—and serve—New Yorkers.

The public is behind the idea, according to a recent poll showing 50 percent of voters supporting a redistricting commission independent of the state legislature. But what does independent redistricting actually look like?

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The Empire

Cuomo rating soars, as voters voice support for indy redistricting

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Governor Andrew Cuomo's approval ratings remain high, buoyed by a favorable response to his handling of the recent hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

Voters gave Cuomo an 86 percent approval rating for his handling of the Irene and Lee storms. His overall approval is at 66 percent, which Quinnipiac notes is "the highest score for any governor in states surveyed by Quinnipiac University and among the highest for any New York governor[.]"

“New York’s love affair with Gov. Andrew Cuomo persists, perhaps helped along by Irene and Lee,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “Yes, we like him. Yes, we like his policies. Yes, we think he did a good job on the tropical storms. Yes, he’s dominating the legislature. Maybe we should ask about his Queens accent.”

Voters are also telling Cuomo they want independent redistricting, according to the poll. Of those polled, 50 percent say they want an independent commission to redraw political boundaries. But how's this for low expectations: even more--55 percent--do not believe the governor or the state legislature will keep their promises made during the 2010 elections to use an independent redistricting process.

“New Yorkers don’t want the State Legislature to draw the district lines that decide where they and members of Congress will get elected. Half prefer an independent commission. Some think there should be some legislative say,” Carroll said. “But most voters don’t believe that New York’s political leaders will keep their word.

“We chose a provocative word deliberately and almost half of the voters say they’d feel ‘betrayed’ if elected officials don’t change the districting system.”

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The Empire

What does a Turner win mean for the future of NY-9?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NY-9: Doomed to extinction? (Courtesy of LATFOR.)

Even before Bob Turner’s upset victory last night, a lot was made about the possibility that the 9th Congressional District might cease to exist soon.

But why, exactly? On a practical level, New York State is going to lose representation in Congress. We grew slower in comparison to other parts of the country over the last ten years, according to the US Census. Since the set number of seats in the House of Representatives are divvied up proportionally among the states based on population, New York is going to get two less seats come 2012.

This process happens every ten years, and in the past there has been an agreement between the Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature, which is responsible for drawing the political lines for all New York political districts. Since the Democrats control the Assembly, and the Republicans control the Senate, when they get together to carve up the state, each side would loses a seat. As the Democrats are strong downstate, they’d likely sacrifice a seat here and vice versa for the Republicans upstate.

It’s an interesting arrangement, as the Federal elected representatives have to lobby their colleagues in the state legislature. Generally speaking, seniority and political influence rule the process, with junior and weaker members more likely to be redistricted out of a job.

“These are political decisions and the lines are drawn in regards to political balance,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at SUNY New Paltz. “You’re not dealing with math here.”

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