Forum on redistricting highlights minority challenges

The recent release of the 2011 Census data has members of the community concerned about the demographic challenges presented within Queens.

The Citizen Alliance for Progress (CAP) hosted a forum explaining the issues the community faces with the new political districts that are to be drawn. Eduardo Giraldo, founder and director of CAP, an organization that promotes civic awareness, political inclusion and action in New York City, emphasized the importance of engaging the minorities.

“Redistricting will affect every aspect of our lives for the next 10 years and we must engage ourselves in an honest and open discussion around this topic,” Giraldo said.

Guest speaker Lucía Gómez-Jiménez, former policy fellow with the National Institute of Latino Policy, explained the tactics of gerrymandering – the process of redrawing districts to favor certain parties.

With the loss of two congressional seats in the state, the redistricting process will reduce the number of seats at a local level for districts and Queens will have to prepare for this lack of political representation, Jiménez said.

“The Census brings power to the elected officials that they can essentially have to bring money into the districts or to manipulate the districts for their own personal gain,” explained Jiménez. “This impacts us daily, how the elected officials vote in Albany, how they vote at the City Council level and why they choose to vote this way.”

Jiménez also pointed out that gerrymandering usually affects minority populations, much like Queens, where the population is said to be undercounted.

“The assumption is that if given the opportunity, Latinos will elect Latinos, Asians will elect Asians, and so on, therefore when politicians ‘split the community’ by dividing it into two districts, they are limiting their ability to elect officials who reflect similar interests,” said Jiménez.

The forum encouraged the attendees to vocalize their concerns in order to avoid political seclusion and an inactive decade for minority representatives who look to gain voting amongst their immigrant constituents.

“We must start out with education and reaching out to those people that have capabilities and resources to inform our citizens and assimilate them into political engagement,” Jiménez noted.

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