Christina Chang sat calmly in the front row of the hearing room, unshaken by the raging crowd surging behind her. In her hands she held a homemade, neon sign that read “Minority Votes Should Count.” She wore a crisp white T-shirt stenciled with the word “MinkWon.”
It means “civil rights” in Korean.
Representing her group, MinkWon, part of the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy (ACCORD) — a non-partisan, pan-Asian association reflecting community interests — Chang came to stand for the strength of her neighborhood and the voice of her people.
Residents and officials crammed into a hearing at Queensborough Hall on Tuesday, February 7, combating the redistricting they feel has divided their neighborhoods and diminished their voting power. Based on population transfers noted in the 2010 Census, redistricting resulted in Queens Democrats believing the procedure was an effort by Republicans, who represent the majority in the state Senate, to pit seat holders against one another.
“Allow the public to speak first! This is a public hearing!” yelled Bob Friedrich, founder of Eastern Queens United, which advocates for maintaining unity among ethnically-diverse neighborhoods.
“This is one of the most important meetings we’ve ever had,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, quieting the rowdy audience. “Minority votes should count. We’ve got to make sure the lines are drawn properly.”
Local government officials took to the microphone to state their opinions to the audience and members of the Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), which held the hearing.
Senator Michael Gianaris referred to the recent redistricting as “disgraceful manipulation” and a “vain attempt to deny minorities a vote.” Armed with maps of Hempstead and Westchester, Gianaris indicated areas of high minority populations and their dissection.
“[This redistricting] is more than just the fragmenting of communities. The procedure and product has been taken as borderline racism,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.
Freidrich hopes that LATFOR will redraw district lines, reuniting ethnic communities.
If they fail to do this, Freidrich says he will consult the governor, who intends to veto the plan, according to spokesperson Matt Wing.