Williams wants ‘Unity Maps’ considered for redistricting

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Office of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

New York City Public Advocate and candidate for Governor of New York, Jumaane Williams wants “Unity Maps” crafted by advocates to now be used, as New York State Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that Democratic leaders violated the State Constitution in redrawing new congressional and State Senate districts.

“This last-minute order from the New York State Court of Appeals, just weeks before voting begins, will, and already has created chaos and ultimately be a disservice to voters,” said Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants. “Splitting primaries will raise costs and lower voter turnout, undoing the reforms of years past and causing voters to become disillusioned and disengaged.

“In New York City, after immense community engagement and input, advocates crafted ‘Unity Maps,’ which were ultimately unused,” he added. “It is those maps which should now be considered as we move forward to create maps where communities and voters are well represented and heard.”

In a 32-page ruling, the divided New York State Court of Appeals ordered that a court-appointed special master draft replacement lines for this year’s midterm elections.

“Regardless of where district lines ultimately fall, it now falls to the state to conduct a massive voter engagement and education effort, to attempt to mitigate the drop in voter turnout in a state where turnout is already historically low,” Williams said. “This work needs to be done across neighborhood boundaries and language barriers, and it must be accompanied by collaboration with candidates who have had the time and resources they’ve spent now upended.

“It is important to create accommodations, so that neither voters nor the people seeking to represent them are disenfranchised,” he added. “Amid a tide of conservative efforts to reduce voters’ voice and power, New York had an opportunity to stand as a beacon.”

Williams said the goal of redistricting is to ensure that voters are “equitably, accurately represented and served by their government,” stating that “it is clear that in this decision and the ones that led up to it, New York has failed in that goal.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul said she is reviewing the court’s decision.