The Honorable Roanne L. Mann
United States Magistrate Judge
United States District Court – Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza East
Brooklyn, New York 11201
2 March 2012
Dear Judge Mann –
I respectfully submit this letter urging the Court’s consideration of
several additional factors to consider in drawing congressional
districts in the Bronx and Westchester Counties.
The separate plans submitted by the Assembly and Senate majorities
carve the Bronx into four or five districts that fracture a voting
rights protected community whose population of nearly 1.3 million
residents deserves to be represented by no more than two or three
Members of Congress. Both plans Only the Assembly plan keeps incumbent Representative Jose Serrano’s district (NY-16) wholly within Bronx county. The Senate plan attaches East Harlem in Manhattan to his Bronx-based district.
Beyond the slicing and dicing of the Bronx to serve political
interests, the reconfiguration of Rep. Eliot Engel’s (NY-17) current
“majority-minority” tri-county district directly violates the Voting
Rights Act. That district’s minority population rose from 50.9% in 2002
to 56% in 2010 and drops to 44% in the proposed Assembly plan. In
contrast, the district’s NH white population fell from 41.3% (2002) to
37.2% (2010) but rises to 48.75% under the new plan. Even worse, the NH
White population gains a 50% – 42.7% edge in voting age population.
Clearly, it is an illegal “retrogression” as far as the ability of
minority voters to overcome white bloc-voting against minority
candidates is concerned. (On its face, the State Senate plan does not
violate the Voting Rights Act.)
Logically, if the Legislature makes efforts to maintain the Rangel and
Serrano districts as majority black and Hispanic, respectively, the
same VRA imperative must pertain in the Engel district which
experienced marked growth in its minority population (2002-2010).
I trust that this honorable Court will make a note of this concern as
you draw districts that unite rather than divide communities of
interest. I also trust the Voting Rights section of the US DOJ will
also make note of these concerns when, and if, a congressional
redistricting plan is submitted for “pre-clearance” scrutiny.
Respectfully submitted,
Michael Benjamin
Former Member of Assembly (Bronx – 79)