I hope that Brooklynites will turn out this Wednesday, February 1, at 10:30 a.m. to speak out at a Brooklyn hearing being held by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR).
The hearing will be held at Founders Hall Auditorium, St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights (180 Remsen Street).
The topic of the day will be the recently released Assembly and State Senate district lines, lines drawn by LATFOR pursuant to new data from the 2010 census, amongst other things.
Also open for testimony are the new Congressional district lines—which need to be in place for the Congressional Primary Election now scheduled for June 26, 2012. (The Presidential Primary is in April and the State Primary election looks like it will still be in September.)
My written testimony to LATFOR will read as follows (unfortunately, I cannot attend in person):
My name is Chris Owens; I am one of the two Democratic State Committee members representing the 52nd Assembly District, within which this hearing is located. The other State Committee member is my colleague, Jo Anne Simon.
I submit this testimony in opposition to the extremely partisan and unconstitutional power grab by the Republican Party through their proposed State Senate district lines. There is no question that this gerrymandering scheme does not put the interests of New York State’s residents first.
The proposed State Senate lines make a mockery of the reapportionment and redistricting process.
First and foremost, the creation of a 63rd Senate district violates the New York State Constitution.
In fact, the increase to 62 districts that was implemented 10 years ago was based upon a formula that was never submitted to the United States Justice Department for approval, despite its Voting Rights Act implications and the requirement for pre-clearance. Now, the Republican Party is hoping to compound the disrespect and damage it has already done with a blatantly cynical increase in the number of State Senate districts to 63.
Second, it is clear that the motivation of the Republican Party is to retain its majority in the State Senate, and counter any upstate population loss for their districts due to the fact that prison inmates may no longer be counted as residents of their districts.
The change in the status of inmates is a major civil rights advance for New York State, but the Republican Party is now holding this change against the people of New York State by promulgating these district lines.
I could go on, but these are the most pressing points and I know that many others will be making excellent points worthy of consideration as well.
It is certainly my hope that the Governor vetoes these State Senate lines.
However, I believe that it is LATFOR’s responsibility to lay the foundation for good government in New York State for at least the next 10 years. These State Senate lines are not a solid foundation for good government; they are an embarrassment and a betrayal of the public's trust.