BY BRIDGETTE OUTTEN
A new congressional map put in place for New York State by federal judges protects the voting rights of minority New Yorkers, says one local advocate.
Esmeralda Simmons is the founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College (CLSJ), an organization established to address racial justice issues.
The new map “recognizes the substantial population of Latinos, Blacks and Asians in the state, especially in New York City – where combined they constitute the majority of the city’s 8.1 million residents,” Simmons tells Politic365.
New York State lost two congressional seats last year. After state lawmakers couldn’t come to a new map agreement, a three-judge federal panel stepped in. CLSJ submitted the Unity Plan for consideration, hoping to quash political tensions. The plan was a collaborative effort of four voting rights advocacy groups and their constituencies: CLSJ, LatinoJustice, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Institute for Latino Policy, she says. The plan approved by the panel is very similar to the Unity Plan, the coalition announced.
The redistricting takes into consideration equal representation with a map that created 27 “relatively compact congressional districts with equal population,” Simmons explains, and the Court did not take any incumbent into consideration.
“The new map does attempt to give protected communities the opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice. It also keeps whole most communities that are too small to constitute a congressional district,” Simmons says, citing the historic Harlem area as one example.
However, the issue of redistricting’s impact is already under speculation, especially concerning the 15th district and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel’s seat. Rangel, 81, is already facing a crowded June 26th primary. Now Rangel also may face Manhattan State Sen. Adriano Espaillat – in the district that is now majority Latino.
Still, that district has had a strong contingent of Latino influence for the past 12 years, Simmons points out.
“The Black population has waned, while the Latino and White populations have grown,” she adds. “Its residents have consistently elected Congressman Rangel. The district contains a large Dominican population, who have elected Dominican representatives to both state and city offices,” she says, pointing out that Espaillat is one such representative.
Simmons says both Rangel and Espaillat are liked and respected by the residents of Northern Manhattan.
Simmons also notes another race to watch includes the election for the former Ackerman District in Queens.
“The Asian community centered Flushing is largely contained within that district, although not the majority,” she says. “Now that it is an open seat, an Asian candidate is running in an attempt to be the first Asian elected to Congress from New York.”