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The final version of New York City's revampe district maps have made their way to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has a little under two months to evaluate their compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
Despite some uproar from some local groups, the maps were finalized by the city’s Districting Commission in February and passed through the City Council in March without a vote.
The DOJ now has until May 24 to make sure that the maps don’t impair voter accessibility and protections for minority voters in Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn, all of which are protected under Section 5 of 1965’s VRA.
The public can make comments during the 60-day evaluation period. Barring any violations of the VRA, the federal government's approval would mean the new maps would go into effect before the upcoming primary, which is expected to take place in September.
The Districting Commission already held three rounds of public hearings in each borough and heard testimony from more 300 New Yorkers before voting to approve the maps in February by a vote of 14 to 1.
The commission responsible for drawing up the latest redistricting maps says it will now send its final plan to the U.S. Department of Justice for review.
The Districting Commission also said Monday it had already submitted the plan to the city clerk. Next, the DOJ will need to evaluate whether or not the communities falling in between the lines are either willfully or inadvertently discriminated against based on race or color. Otherwise known as the Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, the protections only apply to Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.The Department of Justice will have 60 days after it receives the commission's maps to evaluate the lines for the city's 51 districts. The City Council quietly filed the maps last week. No council members lodged complaints by Friday's deadline — meaning the plan was effectively adopted.
City Council members only have a few hours left before the newly drawn district maps are sent to the clerk’s office.
While the Council’s agenda on Wednesday may have been dominated by news of its immigration reform and street vendor bills, the Council also filed the Districting Commission’s revised maps. Members must file any objections to the commission by 5 p.m. Friday, otherwise the map will move on to the city clerk’s office — effectively meaning the Council has approved the lines without a vote.
The lines wil then be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for review.
Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he was disappointed there wasn't more of an announcement from City Hall.
“The fact that there have been no public statements,” Berman said, “is somewhat distressing.”
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the M.T.A.'s finances have improved after years of crises thanks to increased ridership, higher tax collection, and cost-cutting measures. But he noted that fare hikes outpace inflation and financing sources for future projects remain unclear. The legal challenge to the payroll tax was also raised as a significant hurdle. Meanwhile, the state budget has generally stabilized from the recent past, when it lurched from multi-billion dollar crisis to crisis, he said.
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Now just about anybody can draw up their own version of the City Council's district lines.
The independent commission set up to redraw the Council's lines to reflect the city's changing demographics today released free software online that can be used to create and submit maps for consideration.
The goal is to make the districting process more transparent and open to the public.
Every 10 years after the U.S. Census count, the district lines are redrawn for the Council, with the goal of ensuring fair and equal representation.
In the past, the process has been very much driven by the elected officials holding office, leading to gerrymandered district lines that are driven more by partisan politics and that can split communities with common interests.
Deliberations over how the New York City Council's district lines will be drawn for the next decade is getting communities and advocacy organizations into a map-making mood. One coalition of civil rights organizations released a map today of how they think the Council's district lines should be drawn to account for shifts in demographics and to protect the voting rights of blacks, Asians and Latinos.