Monday, April 16, 2012
By Andrew Dean : SUNY Buffalo law student
How hard is it to draw fair legislative districts? Guest columnist Andrew Dean, a SUNY Buffalo law student, reflects on the plans he and other students submitted in a competition to try and answer that question.
Monday, March 19, 2012
As expected, Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann's proposed congressional map plan today. With only a few minor changes, the three-judge court accepted the 27 districts where candidates seeking to be on the primary ballot June 26 will be able to begin collecting signatures tomorrow.
"In the face of an outdated congressional districting plan, the application of which
would plainly violate the requirements of federal law, and of the New York legislature’s
complete abdication of its congressional redistricting duty, this court is obliged not only to
recognize a violation of law but also to create a new redistricting plan to ensure against the
disenfranchisement of state voters in the 2012 congressional elections," the judges wrote in their judgement.
The changes made by the three judges can be seen below after the jump.
Plaintiffs in the case, in particular the lawyers working on behalf of the Senate Republicans, had argued before the three-judge court that Mann should have taken the present districts' cores and incumbents into account in her maps. Additionally, a number of arguments before the court sought for specific communities--namely the African American community in Harlem; the Dominic and Latino communities in northern Manhattan, the Bronx and northern Queens; and the Jewish community in southern Brooklyn--to get districts they felt were fairer. The court rejected all these arguments.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann posted her final recommended congressional maps online late Monday. The plans show only slight changes from the original draft maps. Most notably, Mann reconfigured the Voting Rights Act-protected majority black districts in Brooklyn. Local lawmakers and community organizers were upset over the first set of maps they say unfairly divided communities that had traditionally been represented in the same district.
Mann's new maps appear to rejoin the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods with the western-most district currently represented by Congressman Ed Towns.
Participants in the federal case that kick-started the court's drawing of new congressional lines will have until Wednesday to file their objections. The three-judge panel will convene on Thursday March 15 and hold a public hearing to receive feedback on the proposal. The anticipation is the court will vote agree on lines before the start of petitioning for the congressional primary on March 20.
Meanwhile, New York's legislature has put forth maps for its own set of seats. No congressional plan has been presented by lawmakers, which may be the final sign the legislature is abdicating its constitutional responsibility to draw the state's congressional lines.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
In a forceful letter to magistrate judge Roanne Mann, Brooklyn Assemblyman and head of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Caucus, Karim Camara made it clear he was not keen on the way Brooklyn's two historically black congressional districts had fared in the judge's draft maps.
Camara has a two-fold beef: the district that closely tracks Rep. Yvette Clarke's district--a mostly ethnically Caribbean area--now shoots north to pickup the historic African American neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, while the Rep. Ed Towns doppelganger district is now shooting all the way down to Coney Island. To do this Towns' district has to pick up a large chunk of mostly white neighborhoods in southeastern Brooklyn.
"These neighborhoods have nothing in common – racially, culturally, geographically, ideologically or socioeconomically – with the African-American neighborhoods of central and east Brooklyn and it would be a grave mistake to include them," Camara writes.
He goes on to blast the judge for drawing both Congressman Towns and one of his rivals for the job, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, out of the district they've been running to represent.
"The plan proposed by the court will short-circuit a democratic contest that is already underway, possibly depriving hundreds of thousands of African-American and Latino voters the opportunity to support the candidate of their choice," Camara writes.
If you look at the voting age population the Department of Justice would be looking at when they review Voting Rights Act-protected districts (the judge's plans wouldn't be reviewed by DoJ), Mann's maps would make Towns' district 51.5 percent black and Clarke's district 51.3 percent. Compare that to the Assembly's (51.9/51.6) and the state Senate's (52.9/51.1) maps for Towns and Clarke respectively.
So what would Camara have the judge do? "...Coney Island would more clearly benefit from inclusion in the new NY-9," he writes. "NY-9 could move south from the neighborhoods of Flatbush and Midwood, adding Gravesend and Coney Island. Eastern Parkway could then serve as NY-9’s northern border."
The Assemblyman then suggests Towns' district would "take back in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and southern Williamsburg, communities that were inexplicably removed simply to accommodate the addition of Coney Island."
Without a new map, it's hard to know how that would effect the delicate balance happening to keep both districts black majority districts. One thing is certain: we're told we can expect more push back on the judge's lines in the coming days as black and Latino leaders mobilize for what they see as an unfair process.
Camara's full letter is after the jump.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
With the release of her draft maps, magistrate judge Roanne Mann moved the congressional redistricting process forward in a major way. But these aren't the first set of maps that have been the focus of intense speculation. Most recently the senate and assembly both presented the courts with plans that got treated with significant interest by the the media, commentators and the public.
A number of people, including potential candidates for congress, have referred to these lines in relation to the state legislature's own process for redrawing maps.
"We should not jump to the conclusion that these will be the final lines, as the state legislature may yet come to an agreement on a map that would supersede the proposal released today," said Tom Wilson, who has been playing a run against Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth in the Hudson Valley.
"We sincerely hope that Albany gets its act together and agrees on more sensible congressional lines so that the Special Master's proposal doesn't become law," said The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association after seeing their neighborhood divide between two districts in Mann's plan.
Which raises the question, are these the lines we'll have for the next ten years?
The answer could be yes. First, a note on the schedule for the court's process. All the groups and individuals involved in the Favors case Judge Mann is presiding over need to have written comments on her proposal in by 9 am tomorrow, March 7. There's been speculation she may call the parties back into court to discuss what they say later this week.
But what's certain is the magistrate judge will have a revised, final set of proposed maps to the three-judge panel overseeing this whole process by Monday, March 12. Then, the parties will again be able to comment on the maps directly to the three-judge panel before the panel meets on March 15. The expectation is that a final decision on the maps will be made shortly thereafter, as petitioning to get on the congressional primary ballot begins two weeks from today.
There remains an outside chance the legislature could step up and pass congressional maps before the three-judge panel does next week. It would require not only passing the maps, but changing the date of the congressional primary from June 26 to a later date. The federal judge that set the June date, Judge Sharpe, left the door open for this to happen, but so far the senate and assembly have been unable to come to an agreement on a date.
Oh, yeah: the legislature also needs to get both the Department of Justice to sign off on the maps--something they have up to 60 days to do--and Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign them. He's promised to veto maps if they remain "hyper-partisan."
Common Cause's Susan Lerner praised the maps, calling the proposal "a vast improvement over the self-serving interests of the Legislature," while Citizens Union's Dick Dadey said, "The Congressional maps presented today by the court show that an independent process can produce better districts than those drawn by the legislature." Were these the sort of hypo-partisan maps the Governor was imagining?
Still, according to one line of thinking, it might come down to whether or not the congressional delegation is all that unhappy about the maps. Some, like Representative Gary Ackerman, have signaled they're fine with what's presented and are ready to run. Others, like Congressman Jerry Nadler, barely saw their districts move. Others still, like a good chunk of the Long Island delegation, might simply see the redrawn districts as good enough and move in.
In a sense, it may come down to whether or not a critical mass develops among the delegation; if there's not a fight from them for better lines, should the state legislature even bother?
So far, it's uncertain where things stand on this point. Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader, through a spokesman, have indicated they'd still like to make a deal on congressional districts. They'd better hurry. Time's running out.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Just hours after a federal judge's proposed congressional maps were picked up by the media, Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who had intended to run against Republican Congressman Bob Turner, saw himself drawn into an entirely new district--one without an incumbent--in the judge's plans.
The Special Master’s lines came out today, and while I can’t predict what the final lines will ultimately look like, the Special Master’s district six is centered around my home and communities that I have represented in the Assembly, on the community board and as a civic leader for over twenty years. I look forward to the opportunity to run for Congress when the lines are finalized.
Let's take a look at that proposed 6th district. For starters, this appears to be pretty close to the district AALDEF and other community groups proposed District 5 in their UNITY map:
And the court's District 6 map:
A quick look at the voting age population of the new district:
Which is all to say, the district's voting age population in majority minority, and the largest chunk in that group is the Asian community. It will be interesting, if these lines become real, to see how that dynamic shapes the candidates in the race.
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Yesterday, federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann held a hearing to review the proposed congressional maps submitted by the state assembly and senate, as well as groups like Common Cause. Much of the hearing was over the scope the parties hoped the judge would take--the legislative houses and others pushed the judge to make the scope narrower, to look at the existing districts as starting points, and to consider incumbency.
Well, Judge Mann worked fast: below are the draft congressional maps released by the court late last night. And as you can see the judge appears to have decided ignored both the state senate and assembly's draft maps for downstate districts.
Some highlights from the city:
- The Asian community centered in Flushing would have an Asian-influenced district in Queens.
- The seat occupied by Bob Turner would cross into Nassau, and would also take on the entire Rockaway Peninsula--and pair Turner with Meeks (h/t Colin Campbell at Politicker)
- The Towns district stretches all the way to Coney Island.
- Grimm's district would move further into Bay Ridge, picking up some of Sheepshead Bay in the process.
- Maloney's district would gobble up the Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhoods in North Brooklyn, taking them out of Rep. Nydia Velázquez's district.
- Charlie Rangel's district would remain in Manhattan, moving from the upper west to the upper east side of the island, but would continue the trend of being majority Latino.
- It looks like the court decided to, more than anyone, blow up both the Turner and Ackerman seats.
Colin and I both stand corrected by Queens' own Evan Stavisky. Via Twitter: "Rep. Meeks' district was NOT combined with Turner. Turner's section of the Rockaways was just added to Rep. Meeks' district."
Monday, March 05, 2012
Federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann is bringing together the sides with skin in the redistricting game today at a hearing to review legislative and community activist proposals for how the state’s 27 congressional districts could be drawn.
The hearing comes as state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo are reportedly in the midst of trying to hammer out a deal that would see better lines for the Governor to pass alongside a constitutional amendment to change the redistricting process going forward.
But as Jimmy Vielkind of the Albany Times-Union reports, the process is far from finalized:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who denounced LATFOR's first draft of lines as "hyper-political," is wielding the threat of a gubernatorial veto to make lawmakers agree to a new law and changes to the State Constitution that would rip the map-making pen from legislators themselves.
Assembly Democrats outlined a draft package of possible changes last week, the Times Union reported Thursday, but the new system still allows for final revisions by legislators — something that has left some good-government advocates uneasy.
A Cuomo administration source said Sunday that there was no overall agreement, and as such, "if they are drafting now then they are drafting for a veto."
Even as the redistricting morass continues, three distinct pieces of the overall puzzle should be watched closely:
Friday, March 02, 2012
At the end of today, everyone who has skin in the congressional redistricting game will need to have their proposals for new lines into Judge Roanne Mann. In preparation for the hearing on Monday, March 5, Judge Mann has laid out the ground rules for those who'll present their arguments on Monday:
Given the March 12th deadline by which this Court must issue its report and recommendation on a new Congressional redistricting plan for the State of New York, as well as the number of parties and non-parties providing input into the process and expected to participate in the proceeding scheduled for Monday, it was not the Court’s intention to conduct a trial-type evidentiary hearing on March 5th. Instead, the hearing will proceed in the manner herein described.
Each group of parties will be given up to twenty (20) minutes to present its argument to the Court. Counsel representing parties with similar interests are encouraged to decide in advance which attorney will address a particular issue; the Court will not entertain repetitive arguments. Each party group may reserve up to three (3) minutes of its time to present a brief response, at the conclusion of the party presentations, to the other parties’ arguments. Such responses must be limited to correcting misstatements of fact or law, and may not include new or repetitive affirmative arguments.
Time permitting, interested non-parties who have submitted proposed plans or substantive comments and have registered by today’s deadline may be afforded up to five (5) minutes to address the Court. Non-parties and organizations with affiliated interests are encouraged to select one representative to speak on their behalf for the allotted time. Non-party presentations must be limited to the topic of New York State Congressional redistricting.
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Here’s an interesting tidbit from the legal process federal magistrate Roanne Mann set up to get as much info as possible before she drafts congressional lines for New York.
In the midst of a massive upload of map plans from the state Assembly and Senate, as well as Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and community organizations who have drawn their own maps, the issue of taking incumbency into account in the drawing of lines was raised.
At the February 27 hearing that saw Mann charged with coming up with the schedule for drawing maps, the lawyers for the senate and assembly had asked the judge find a way to have incumbency be part of the conversation. In a follow up letter to the judge, Senate Republicans’ lawyer Michael Carvin laid out the case for “why incumbency protection is an appropriate factor for the Court to consider in drawing redistricting maps.”
“Preserving the cores of existing districts—sometimes also referred to as incumbency protection—is a well-established, traditional districting principle in New York,” Carvin writes. He goes on to cite numerous cases to show that “this Court has recognized preserving the cores of existing districts is ‘an important and legitimate factor’ in Congressional redistricting due to ‘the powerful role that seniority plays in the functioning of Congress.’”
It’s not a flat-out refusal to take incumbents into account when drawing new lines, but an order issued by Judge Mann today appears to signal an interest in at least seeing how things look when incumbents aren’t part of the equation. (The entire chronological history of the case can be seen online here.)
The order, issued this morning, tells LATFOR to send over the data they plug into their computer software to draw maps. But there’s a note attached: “No political or other data, including incumbent residence, shall be included with the data provided.”
Monday, February 27, 2012
In Brooklyn federal district court today a three-judge panel took a decisive step towards having new congressional lines drawn by an appointed magistrate judge, and not by the legislatively-controlled LATFOR committee.
Led by Circuit Judge Reena Raggi, who spoke almost exclusively for the triumvirate, the panel cited the "utmost urgency" of having congressional lines in place for the primary petitioning period that begins on March 20. The panel of judges instructed a court-appointed federal magistrate, the Honorable Roanne Mann, to retain experts and get public feedback in order to have a proposed set of new congressional boundaries to the court by Monday, March 12.
A public hearing on the court's proposed lines would be held on March 15.
Legislative leaders have up to now been unable to agree upon and present a set of congressional maps to the public. We may get our first glimpse of what the state Assembly and Senate have in mind soon; maps from the parties in the case are due by the end of this week.
But some observers believe the legislature isn't going to give up its power to draw maps that easy.
"I think the chances are that they [the legislature] will get it together and draw the lines," said Jerry Goldfeder, a New York City-based election lawyer. "This is just an extra motivating force."
The question will be whether or not they've run out of time: even if the legislature is able to agree upon a set of maps, they must then get Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign them into law. And even then, the legislature's maps must then be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice, who has up to 60 days to review them.