How the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act Ruling Affects New York

State Senator John Sampson's district. The Republican-controlled Senate drew the seat to   include then-Democratic Senate candidate Lew Fidler's base from a neighboring district seat.
State Senator John Sampson’s district was gerrymandered in its southeastern corner to absorb a top-tier candidate for the neighboring seat.

Earlier today, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which defined which jurisdictions needed federal clearance for voting law changes before implementation. Because three New York counties–Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx–fell under Section 4’s formula, today’s ruling effectively removes the pre-clearance standard from any voting changes that affect the city or state.

Put in simpler terms, changes to New York’s election law will no longer face the potential obstacle of automatic federal intervention. For example, any lawsuit against the recent decision to shift this year’s run-off election date back a week and allow the city to return to levered voting machines would be unlikely to succeed before Election Day on September 10, redistricting attorney Jeff Wice told Politicker this morning.

Continue reading “How the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act Ruling Affects New York”

Crowded Crop of Candidates Eye Mike Nelsons’ Council Seat

Igor Oberman. (Photo: Facebook)
Igor Oberman. (Photo: Facebook)

Councilman Mike Nelson’s district was controversially reshaped during this year’s redistricting process to contain a higher percentage of Russian-American constituents, and that change is clearly shaking up the race to replace him. Previously, District Leader Ari Kagan was one of the only candidates openly campaigning for the seat, but now a bevy of additional hopefuls are poised to join him.

“The lines look good! The lines look good!” attorney Igor Oberman, who temporarily ran against the then-powerful, now-incarcerated State Senator Carl Kruger before withdrawing his campaign, told Politicker. “I haven’t made any decision but I can say every morning, the lines get louder and louder.”

Continue reading “Crowded Crop of Candidates Eye Mike Nelsons’ Council Seat”

Lincoln Restler Sees a ‘Political Deal’ in North Brooklyn Council District Map

The 33rd Council District. (Photo: Districting Commission/Google Maps)
The 33rd Council District. (Photo: Districting Commission/Google Maps)

One of the fiercest disputes over the decennial redistricting process raged on after the final versions of the new City Council district maps were released this week. Councilman Steve Levin insisted the process through which the districts were drawn was focused on substance while his potential rival, Lincoln Restler, repeatedly dismissed the new Council maps as rooted in political concerns.

“There was never a serious discussion,” Mr. Restler argued. “This was a political deal made by the Speaker and the local council member and it’s clear throughout the entire process that it’s nothing more than an incumbent protection program.”

Mr. Restler’s long-rumored bid to unseat Mr. Levin took a significant hit when the redistricting dust finally settled. In their final lines, the commission tasked with the decennial redrawing of City Council boundaries upheld an alteration to Mr. Levin’s 33rd District that added tracts of Hasidic Jewish voters likely to back Mr. Levin and removed parts of Brownstone Brooklyn favorable to Mr. Restler.

Continue reading “Lincoln Restler Sees a ‘Political Deal’ in North Brooklyn Council District Map”

New City Council Lines Announced

map New City Council Lines AnnouncedThe Districting Commission tasked with redrawing City Council lines unveiled yesterday the latest, and likely last, version of those lines. After a process fraught with alleged backroom deals and heated public hearings, the lines are a City Council vote away from being final for another decade.

Some alterations were made to satisfy the demands of civic groups and minority advocacy organizations, but, at first glance, many were not.

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Racial Tensions Flare at Queens Redistricting Hearing

IMG_4072Unlike Teddy Roosevelt, the president he quoted at last night’s Queens redistricting hearing, Republican Councilman Dan Halloran spoke loudly and did not carry a big stick.

Mr. Halloran’s bruising 2009 City Council race in northeast Queens cast a long shadow over the hearing in Long Island City- the third of its kind in front of a commission tasked with the decennial redrawing of districts to reflect demographic changes in the city- where he and allied civic groups clashed with Asian advocacy organizations about whether a neighborhood, Oakland Gardens, should be incorporated into Mr. Halloran’s 19th District. The heavily Asian neighborhood, which groups like the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy (ACCORD) believe should be joined with nearby Bayside to empower Asian-American voters in the area, is currently in Councilman Mark Weprin’s district.

“Additionally, contrary to some public submissions which call for the creation of a Asian or other ethnic district, I cannot help but to recall the words of the great New Yorker and president, Teddy Roosevelt when he said that, ‘There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americans,'” Mr. Halloran said. “We do not have proposals to create an Irish district, an Italian district, a Greek district, a district of green eyed people or a district of left handed people.” Continue reading “Racial Tensions Flare at Queens Redistricting Hearing”

Russians and Orthodox Jews Clash at Brooklyn Redistricting Hearing

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It was the multicultural American Dream, the only hope of ambitious Russian immigrants and the possible death knell of Orthodox Jewish communities, all at once, at least according to some of those testifying at the redistricting hearing last night in Brooklyn.

It was not the controversial draft map that placed potential Council candidate Vito Lopez in a neighboring district–the aspect of this year’s redrawing of the City Council lines to reflect the new Census numbers that has attracted the most media coverage–that sparked the controversy last night. Rather, two versions of Councilman Michael Nelson’s 48th District offered alternating realities for competing demographic groups, dominating the public hearing in front of most members of the Districting Commission.

Continue reading “Russians and Orthodox Jews Clash at Brooklyn Redistricting Hearing”

Skeptical Democrats Grill Redistricting Commission in Brooklyn

(Photo: @LincolnRestler)
(Photo: @LincolnRestler)

“Does he have an office, though? Does he use the computer?”

The crowd jammed into Williamsburg’s Los Sures Museum last night for the New Kings Democrats’s first meeting of the year laughed at what was not necessarily intended to be a joke. Attorney Jason Otaño, an unsuccessful state senate candidate last fall, really wanted to know if Carl Hum, the executive director of the New York City Districting Commission, had an office and a computer.

Mr. Hum does indeed have both, but technology hasn’t been his biggest headache during this year’s decennial redistricting process where the City Council’s lines will be redrawn to reflect the latest Census numbers. Continue reading “Skeptical Democrats Grill Redistricting Commission in Brooklyn”