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NY Groups Hope New Voting-District Maps Reflect Community Input

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Friday, December 17, 2021   

New York City made history last week when the City Council passed a law giving non-citizens with legal permanent-resident status the right to vote in local elections. But the fight continues for all New Yorkers to have their voices heard in the redistricting process.

As the state Independent Redistricting Commission makes second-draft maps, Anu Joshi, vice president for policy for the New York Immigration Coalition, said her group's goal is to ensure immigrants and people of color have a fair opportunity to elect leaders that represent their identities and interests.

"The goal of redistricting," she said, "should be to ensure that communities have a say in who represents them and that their voices aren't diluted."

In September, the coalition and other groups criticized the redistricting commission for releasing two sets of maps instead of one. The next set of congressional, Assembly and state Senate maps will be delivered by Jan. 3, and advocates are pushing for the public input from hearings to weigh heavily in the process.

Asher Ross, senior strategist for the sister group NYIC Action, said hundreds of people showed up at the two dozen public hearings held through the summer and fall. He said NYIC worked to make the meetings more accessible for New Yorkers who speak languages other than English.

"Our coalition worked directly with the commission to arrange translation into numerous languages," he said. "At the hearings, we were able to get groups submitting their own maps, submitting written testimony. And we felt like it was, in the end, a fairly robust process."

Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge and Sunset Park are among the areas the public has pushed to keep together. Ross said this is critical to preserve the power of these communities.

"We need a state government that reflects that diversity," he said. "One of the reasons we haven't had that is because of gerrymandering, the way that our redistricting process gets manipulated."

Once the commission delivers the second-draft maps, they'll be reviewed by the State Legislature.


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