September 12, 2011
Ongoing New Yorkers’ interest in redistricting seems to be spurred by pro-redistricting reform leaders, coalitions of pro-good government advocacy groups, increasing media attention and anticipation of the U.S. 2012 presidential election. Despite enthusiasm, it should be understood that people’s active participation, advocacy and interest do not necessarily determine redistricting outcome.
Advocacy efforts are spearheaded by New York Uprising commanded by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, ReShape New York, Common Cause, and among many other groups, the Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR), the National Dominican American Council (NDAC), and Latino Justice PRLDEF.
To me, the apparent interest in redistricting has not necessarily been motivated by the perfunctory outreach efforts of mandatory New York State’s Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) in charge of drawing new legislative districts. Instead, noticeable interest has been motivated by groups listed here and Latinos’ visceral desire to advocate for at least a new opportunity congressional district for them; I have not doubts that the surge has further intensified due to forthcoming U.S. 2012 presidential election and the unrelenting media coverage by the New York Times, New York Daily News, NY1 News, El Diario La Prensa, and many other local and national media outlets and networks.
Among a group of over 40 leaders and people representing the Hispanic community and diverse advocacy groups, I testified on behalf of the National Dominican American Council (NDAC) before the Task Force at its recent September 8, 2011 hearing in the Bronx; I was confident Task Force members would seriously consider NDAC National Council’s proposal to creating a new majority-minority Latino congressional district in New York City, primarily in Manhattan and the Bronx.
I reasoned to the Task Force, that, currently, and according to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Latino population grew by 19.2 % in the State of New York, and over 30% in New York City. Despite this growth, Latinos continue to be under-represented in New York City and New York State. Of 62 senators, there are only 6 Latinos serving as senators in the State of New York; of 29 congressional districts in New York State, there are only two Latinos who have served over the past two decades representing their communities in the lower house of the U.S. Congress.
My argument and testimony focused on that the current Latino high percentage and growth merit proportional political representation, if the principle of one person one vote is upheld in drawing intended maps, as stipulated by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
My interest was shattered, however, after listening to rendered testimonials and realizing that people’s interest in the redistricting process doesn’t necessarily mean they will influence outcomes or comprehensively or minimally understand current debate on redistricting and much less the redistricting maze.
Learning about redistricting and all that, meaning its intricacies, requires lots of time and genuine interest in deconstructing the process and purpose. Further, learning about it requires also understanding its hypocrisy, partisan vested interest in controlling results, and overall core requisites.
The ultimate outcome of the redistricting process, one ends up concluding, is not necessarily determined by enthusiastic advocates and people’s participation and testimonials, although vital, but by partisan forces, the U.S. Department of Justice or ultimately, the courts.