By Carol Tannenhauser
Every 10 years, states change their Congressional district lines to reflect the new Census. Redistricting, as it’s called, is a messy and very political process, but the good-government group Common Cause says the new lines should at least keep “communities of interest” together, so people with similar concerns and goals will be able to pool their political power.
No disrespect to our friends across the park, but imagine my shock and dismay upon discovering Monday morning that my new congressional district, i.e. community of interest, is likely to be…the Upper East Side!
The new lines, as shown in maps that have not yet been fully approved, may shock other Upper West Siders as well, because several blocks of the neighborhood have been redistricted into a revised district that includes the Upper East Side. If the new congressional district map is approved — and it’s likely to be, according to several sources — the strip from West 59th to West 84th Street, from Columbus Avenue to Central Park West will be affected.
“Newly proposed congressional maps drawn by Democrats released Sunday night would have neighborhood residents living between West 59th and 84th Streets east of Columbus Avenue voting with the Upper East Side’s District 12,” Patch reported.
I was distraught and outraged; moreso when I read the following passage in The New York Times:
…Mr. Nadler’s district needed to grow in Brooklyn this cycle because he handed over turf he had long represented on the Upper West Side near Central Park and around Greenwich Village to help Ms. Maloney, his neighbor in the 12th District.
He handed over turf he had long represented on the Upper West Side… Jerry did? Our congressman since the dawn of day? He gave us away? We were a strip full of voters of a certain sort that he handed off to Upper East Side Representative Carolyn Maloney to aid in her reelection.
“Where will we vote?” my husband asked, ever practical. Ever existential, my question was: if we vote on the Upper East Side, does that make us Upper East Siders? At the very least, it separates us from our true community of interest. It’s hard enough to gain acceptance as a “real” Upper West Sider without having a different congressional district.
Democrats might say we’re doing it for the cause. Though they’re not supposed to be, districts are drawn to help politicians win (or lose) elections, by including or excluding certain blocks of voters. Maloney got a gift of voters likely to support her. Said the Times:
Ms. Maloney is facing her third primary challenge from the left in three election cycles. By shifting her district farther west, the mapmakers removed parts of progressive hotbeds in Brooklyn and Queens that have supported her challengers, theoretically easing Ms. Maloney’s path to re-election in the safely Democratic seat.
That is how redistricting works. As stated, it is a once-in-a-decade process, following the Census, of adjusting districts lines according to population changes. The practice of orchestrating districts to affect election outcomes is known as “gerrymandering.”
Never has the term seemed more fitting.