Black, Latino, and immigrant Long Islanders broadcasted the need for fair district lines at a February 9 hearing on New York State redistricting, saying that the proposed districts in areas like Brentwood and Hempstead diminish the voting power of communities of color.
The hearing, held at the Suffolk County Legislature in Smithtown, drew a diverse mix of Long Island residents, with some calling for revised lines that would aid Republicans and others supporting lines favorable to Democrats. Regardless of political interest, nearly all testifying at the hearing agreed that LATFOR, the legislative task force commissioned with drawing district maps, unfairly valued partisan interests over demographic data when drawing certain Senate and Assembly district lines.
“For decades, Long Island’s minority population has grown steadily, transforming the nation’s first suburbs from white, Republican bastions into an area that is nearly 30% black, Latino and Asian.”
“On Thursday, anger over the failure of those numbers to translate into political power erupted at a public hearing here in Suffolk County on new boundaries drafted for the island’s nine state Senate seats.”
“Black and Latino leaders—who had been organizing and honing their arguments this week—contended the boundaries split minority communities and diluted their voting power.”
“No black, Asian or Latino person has ever held a state Senate or congressional seat on Long Island. There is one black and one Latino member of the Assembly from the region.”
“We’re not just talking about electing a black person or a Hispanic person,” said Frederick K. Brewington, a Hempstead civil rights attorney who challenged statewide redistricting a decade ago. “We’re talking about electing candidates that the persons in those communities would support. It could be a white person, a Hispanic person, a Chinese person.”
Early in the hearing, several Brentwood residents criticized current district lines for fracturing the voting power of their community.
Brentwood resident Marcos Maldonado:
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