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Are New York Voters of Color Getting a Fair Shake?

February 6, 2012

NEW YORK - Do new state voting districts accurately reflect recent growth in local populations of color? Long Island is the focal point today in the statewide controversy over districts being proposed by a legislative task force.

The Legislative Task force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment released proposed voting district maps 10 days ago.

The maps, says Daniel Altschuler, coordinator for the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, follow a familiar pattern of leaving downstate New Yorkers at a disadvantage compared with voters upstate. He says that's particularly true of the proposed Senate districts on Long Island.

"For instance, in Suffolk County, we know that all of the demographic growth has been in communities of color - and yet we see that the map is strikingly similar to what it was before, suggesting that those who are making the map did not take those demographic changes into account."

Suffolk County's population, Altschuler says, would have dropped in the latest U.S. census were it not for the influx of tens of thousands of Latinos and people of color, and the county's Senate districts should have shifted as a consequence. His group is co-sponsoring a forum tonight in Brentwood to help community members respond to the proposed redistricting plans.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants an independent commission to draw the new political boundaries. Cuomo may have to follow through on a threat to veto lines the Legislature is proposing, says Luis Valenzuela, executive director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, because those lines heavily favor incumbent lawmakers.

"It coincides with voter suppression and disenfranchisement, so Cuomo is going to have to deliver on his statement to veto any lines that have a negative impact."

Tonight's forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at 1090 Suffolk Ave. in Brentwood. Its purpose is to prepare citizens, particularly those from communities of color, for stating their case to the task force, which is to hold a hearing Thursday at the Suffolk County Legislature.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY