CITIZENS UNION CALLS LATFOR GERRYMANDERED MAPS
THE INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCE OF A POLITICIZED PROCESS
DRAFT MAPS MANIPULATE POPULATION DEVIATION TO MAXIMIZE MAJORITY POWER
OPPORTUNITY TO ELECT DISTRICTS FALL SHORT OF CREATING A LEGISLATURE
REFLECTING THE STATE'S DIVERSITY
Good Government Group's Testimony Before LATFOR Follows Appearance in Albany Criticizing LATFOR for Unnecessarily Dividing Cities and Counties and Violating the State Constitution's Requirement for Compact Districts
In its two appearances this week before LATFOR, the state's task force on redistricting, Citizens Union called on LATFOR to improve its maps by reducing the overall population deviation used, drawing districts that better adhere to communities of interest, respecting boundaries of cities and counties, and creating opportunities for minorities to elect candidates of their choice, rather than blatantly manipulating district size and shape to maintain the majority parties' grip on power.
"LATFOR's proposed maps are drawn with one priority paramount to all others: maximizing majority power. The Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats both draw these lines to advance their political ends," said Dick Dadey, Executive Director at Citizens Union. "It comes as no surprise that a process rife with conflicts of interest in which legislators draw their own lines results in a partisan product. These LATFOR maps are exhibit A in why legislators must be permanently removed from the redistricting process or we will never see fairly drawn maps."
Citizens Union's testimony today focused on the need to create districts more equal in size and provide more opportunities for minorities to elect candidates of their choice to diversify the state legislature. In testimony it gave in Albany Monday, Citizens Union demonstrated how LATFOR maps violate the spirit if not the letter of the constitutional requirement to draw compact districts that do not unnecessarily divide political subdivisions like cities and counties.
"The State Legislature does not adequately reflect the demographics of New York," said Alex Camarda, Director of Public Policy. "LATFOR needs to create more opportunity for minorities to elect candidates of their choice, particularly for Asian Americans and Latinos, and do so not just in New York City, but in areas of the state like Long Island, even though it is not perceived to be in the partisan interest of the Senate Republicans."
Twenty-five percent of the state's legislators are minorities, yet 42 percent of the state's population is African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American, multiracial or some other race. Seventy-five percent of legislators are white, while the white population in New York State is just 58 percent. Eighteen percent of the state's population is Hispanic or Latino, yet only 9 percent of the legislature's members are Hispanic or Latino. The Asian American population is 15 times greater than the proportion of legislators of Asian American descent - there is only currently one Asian American legislator, Assemblymember Grace Meng.
Partisan redistricting is a major reason New York State has a legislative body that looks significantly different than the demographics of the state. Because lines are drawn to retain majority power and preserve the seats of incumbent legislators, the state legislature is constantly stuck in the past, slow to adapt to changing demographic trends.
While Citizens Union acknowledges that LATFOR has created more districts enabling Asian Americans to get elected, it needs to go further and create more Latino seats in the Assembly in New York City. More importantly, the Senate Republicans must end their decades-long cracking of minority communities in Long Island that maintain an all white male delegation from Long Island.
"The Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans must end their practice of manipulating the size of districts within an allowable range for partisan reasons," said Rachael Fauss, Research and Policy Manager. "Both majority parties underpopulate districts where political registration is in their favor and overpopulate districts where it is not. This has allowed the parties in power to create a seat in politically advantageous areas of the state to expand their majority in each house."
In the State Senate, the Republican majority overpopulated 19 districts held by or likely to result in a Democratic legislator while underpopulating 23 districts where the incumbent is a Republican. The Assembly Democrats consistently overpopulated districts in which John McCain received a majority of votes in 2008 and underpopulated those in which Barack Obama did.