Redistricting Threats to New York’s Hispanic Congressional Representation
Proposed redistricting maps threaten Hispanic congressional representation by eliminating a congressional district currently represented by a Hispanic member of the House of Representatives and diluting Latino voting power
NEW YORK, November 1, 2021 — The Center for Puerto Rican Studies (CENTRO) at Hunter College, CUNY has issued a revealing report, “Redistricting Threats to New York’s Hispanic Congressional Representation,” analyzing the New York Independent Redistricting Commission's draft plans for redistricting and its impact on Hispanic representation.
The Independent Redistricting Commission has released two versions of congressional maps: one identified with “Names” and another labeled “Letters”. While not final, some of the proposed maps threaten Hispanic congressional representation by eliminating one congressional district currently held by a Hispanic member of the House of Representatives, by diluting Hispanic population in several Hispanic majority districts, and by reducing the likelihood of continuing Hispanic representation in neighborhoods that have just achieved Hispanic representation.
Paradoxically, the attempts to dilute Hispanic political representation come on the heels of large Hispanic population increases across the state that have prevented New York State from losing even more congressional seats in the apportionment process.
One set of district maps, denoted by the Commission as the “Names” map, would reduce the political influence of Hispanic (and non-Hispanic black) constituents by eliminating district 14th altogether, and by limiting the number of districts representing Bronx county. In reducing the number of districts representing the Bronx, as the “Names” plan proposes, that county will also lose not only political representation overall, but will lose specifically political representation by underrepresented minority representatives. While the redistricting process should not be designed for representatives to choose their constituents, by drawing the three proposed “Names” districts, the Independent Redistricting Commission is in fact contriving to remove chosen representatives of voters in Bronx County, even as the Bronx is the only Hispanic-majority county in the state, and it ranked 7th in population growth between 2010 and 2020.
“The plan would also leave historically Hispanic and non-Hispanic black neighborhoods bereft of political representation of their preference and choosing, diluting the voting impact of their residents” stated Dr. Carlos Vargas-Ramos, the Director of Development at CENTRO, who authored the report.
Another set of congressional district maps proposed by the Commission, the “letters” plan, may not be as egregious in diluting Hispanic voters’ influence and limiting the opportunity of electing representatives of their preference. Nevertheless, it still presents some challenges to Hispanic residents and Hispanic legislators.
The “letters” proposal retains large features of the present configuration of congressional districts that provide Hispanic voters with ample opportunity to elect representatives of their preference, and it largely retains the historic configuration of neighborhoods in those districts whose voters have recently elected Hispanic representatives. Counties like the Bronx would retain four members of the House of Representatives, while a proposed Upper Manhattan district would retain traditionally included neighborhoods (e.g., East Harlem, Central Harlem, Manhattanville, and West Harlem). Yet, the extension of the boundaries for a proposed district into areas of the northwest Bronx not historically included within it may challenge its currently elected Latina representative (i.e., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).
Presently, New York City’s Hispanic representation in Congress includes Nydia Velázquez (7th district), Adriano Espaillat (13th district), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (14th district), and Ritchie Torres (15th district).
Call to Action
These proposed maps, both the set denoted “letters” and the set denoted “names,” have not been approved by the Independent Redistricting Commission. The Commission continues its work of receiving input from the public regarding the proposed maps and continues to schedule hearings for that purpose.
The public, therefore, continues to have an opportunity to participate in the process by providing testimony and by submitting plans of its own for the Commission’s consideration. However, the process is approaching its final stages as the boundaries for congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly districts need to be in place for the election cycle in 2022.
Read CENTRO’s complete report at https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/research/data-center/research-briefs/redistricting-threats-new-yorks-hispanic-congressional
To learn more about the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission and testify before the Commission visit https://www.nyirc.gov/meetings
About the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro): The Center for Puerto Rican Studies (CENTRO) at Hunter College, CUNY is a research institute dedicated to the study and interpretation of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States that produces and disseminates relevant interdisciplinary research. CENTRO also collects, preserves, and provides access to library and archival resources documenting Puerto Rican history and culture. We seek to link scholarship to social action and policy debates and contribute to the betterment of our community and enrichment of Puerto Rican Studies.
About Hunter College: Hunter College, located in the heart of Manhattan, is the largest college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Founded in 1870, it is also one of the oldest public colleges in the country and famous for the diversity of its student body, which is as diverse as New York City itself.