Every 10 years, states redraw the boundaries of legislative districts based on data collected by the Census Bureau. While New Yorkers expect the redistricting process to give them a voice and increase political participation, politicians abuse their power and manipulate district lines, benefiting themselves. Common Cause New York is working to restore balance to district maps by guaranteeing that they are free of favoritism or political influence.
Common Cause New York has been fighting for fair and objective redistricting for over a decade.
In 2011, Common Cause New York released the only set of non-partisan redistricting maps for both the state legislature and Congress, which were widely hailed by the media as fair and viable alternatives to the legislature’s official proposals. Ultimately, our maps were used as templates for those now in place. During the 2012-2013 New York City Council redistricting cycle, Common Cause New York offered neighborhood workshops, ensuring residents understood the redistricting process and were able to contribute to setting political boundary lines.
Today, Common Cause New York is training partners and advocates on drawing community maps and on meaningful participation in the redistricting process ahead of New York Redistricting Commission’s public hearings. We need citizen mapmakers to make sure that maps put forward by the Commission are the best–and fairest–possible.
What are community maps?
Community maps are exactly what they sound like: maps of communities, as defined by community members themselves. These maps are based around neighborhoods or areas where residents share values, traditions, concerns and interests that demonstrate why they should be kept together in one voting district. Community maps are created without any specific rules regarding how those communities must be drawn in terms of population numbers, county splits, and so forth.
Why are community maps useful?
Community maps are not official, but they build knowledge and power. They encourage community members to think through what their community is like, what it looks like on a map, and why that community should be kept together. Those advocates will be better able to participate in public hearings and articulate their concerns and district boundary proposals.
How will they be used?
Community maps will educate and empower citizens, enabling them to better participate in public hearings, weigh in on current or proposed maps, and lobby commissioners and legislators. In addition, community maps can become building blocks of district maps and they may serve as important evidence for judges to consider if the maps are challenged in court.
How are they created?
We are using DistrictR to create community maps. This software is free and accessible to all. Our team is here to help answer your questions and practice mapmaking with you.