LATEST UPDATE: The New York City Council approves the Revised City Council District Maps
On October 27, 2022, the New York City Council approved the newly redrawn city council maps proposed by the Districting Commission which will go in to effect next year. The New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams sent a letter to the Districting Commission Chairperson Dennis Walcott announcing the Council’s approval of the new maps. The final version of the maps include significant changes to some existing districts in order to account for the population growth over the last ten years, as demonstrated in the recent Census. The newly drawn maps will now go to the City Clerk for official certification.
The Commission will hold another public meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, 6 p.m. at 22 Reade Street, 1st Floor, New York, NY 10007, during which it will explain the revised plan submitted to City Council. The meeting will also be livestreamed at nyc.gov/districting.
According to the 2020 Census, New York City’s population grew by more than 600,000 between 2010 and 2020. There was significant growth in the City’s Asian American and Pacific Islander population, and also in the City’s Hispanic population. Because of population changes, some council districts may undergo significant changes under a redistricting process.
The NYC Charter requires that the City’s Districting Commission redraw the council’s 51 districts every 10 years, factoring population and demographic changes in the census. The Commission is comprised of 15 members, 7 appointed by the mayor, 5 appointed by the council’s Democratic majority and 3 appointed by the council’s Republican minority.
The members of the Commission are charged with drafting new boundary lines for the council districts, with strict criteria for each district’s population so that it doesn’t dilute the voting power of racial and language minority groups. Further the maps cannot split neighborhoods and communities of common interest.
This process may be as contentious as the process that just transpired for the State Senate, State Assembly and Congressional lines, resulting in a fragmented primary election season.
The New York City Districting Commission released the first set of maps on July 15, 2022. Among the highlights, the preliminary plan created a new Asian- and Pacific Islander- majority district in southern Brooklyn. It will cover parts of Sunset Park, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst. However, some fear these new lines will disempower the area’s LatinX community.
The New York Immigration Coalition expressed concern that the Commission did not keep immigrant communities whole. The new districts will split up communities of color, making it harder for immigrant New Yorkers in those areas to elect leaders that will represent their interests. Others took issue with splitting districts into different boroughs.
The maps are available for review online and a hard copy will be displayed at the Surrogate’s Court 31 Chambers Street.
Eventually, the plan will be submitted to the City Council. If the City Council doesn’t object to that plan within three weeks, it is automatically adopted. If the City Council objects in whole or in part to the plan and requests revisions, the Commission must consider the comments and feedback before issuing a revised plan for public input and another round of hearings. The Commission votes on and submits a final plan to the City Clerk. Thus, the Commission has final approval over the legislative maps unless subject to a legal challenge. However, the past two City Council redistricting plans that were approved passed without a legal challenge.
The new lines must be in place by February 2023 in time for the June primary elections when the City Council will again be on the ballot, as well as in the subsequent 2025 and 2029 elections.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act Become Law in New York State
On June 20, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York (S.1046-E/A.6678-E) into law. The state legislature passed this bill, the most expansive protections in the country, to encourage participation in our Democracy and elective franchise by all eligible New Yorkers. The law aims to ensure that eligible voters who are members of racial, ethnic, and language-minority groups have equitable access to register to vote and participate in our political or electoral process. In sum, this Act establishes the rights of a protected class to vote, provides assistance to language-minority groups, requires preclearance for potential violations and creates civil liability for voter intimidati
Among the provisions:
Expands access to voting by barring voter dilution, suppression, intimidation, deception, or obstruction
Requires jurisdictions with a history of civil or voting rights violations to seek preclearance for changes to key election policies and procedures through either the State Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau or a specified State Supreme Court
Creates civil liability for voter intimidation and vote dilution, provides guidance on how these can be proven in court and a non-exhaustive list of suggested remedies
Provides for expedited judicial proceedings involving alleged violations under the Act
Requires districts to provide language assistance to a minority group for voting materials of an equal quality of the English language materials
The provisions of this Act will apply to all elections for any office or electoral choice within the State or political subdivision.
On June 24, 2022, a New York State law was enacted to protect absentee voting, ensuring these ballots are not disqualified because of stray marks.
During the pandemic many voters used absentee ballots to safely participate in the electoral process. This law protects the constitutional right of absentee voters to have their vote counted when there are marks or writing on an absentee ballot, as long as the express intent of the voter is clear. Before the law was enacted, any stray marks or writing would void the ballot regardless of whether the rest of the ballot was filled correctly.
This Act takes effect immediately and will apply to all elections after June 24.
On January 21, 2022, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation ( S. 7565-B/A. 8432-A) authorizing voting by absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic through 2022. This legislation continues to allow New Yorkers to request an absentee ballot during the pandemic where there is a risk of contracting or spreading disease to members of the public. This legislation first became law in July of 2020, and expired December 31, 2021.
Absentee ballot applications for the February 15th special elections in the 60th and 72nd assembly districts are available through January 31st by mail, until February 14th in-person and can be submitted by mail or in-person until February 15th. More information on absentee voting and how to apply for an absentee ballot is found here.
If you are Voting by Absentee Ballot, here are the Changes for 2022 and Beyond
There are new absentee ballot procedures that apply to 2022 and future elections, as a result of amendments to state law. Here are the key points to remember:
• If you have applied for an absentee ballot either by mail, online or in-person, you may not cast a ballot on a voting machine for that election;
• However, if you have applied for an absentee ballot, and you changed your mind and want to vote in-person, whether during early voting or on election day, you may complete an affidavit ballot at the poll site. Affidavit ballots will be kept separate by the poll workers until the election is completed;
• To ensure that one ballot, one vote is cast by each voter, election officials will confirm if a voter’s absentee ballot has been received. If the absentee ballot has been received, the affidavit ballot will not be counted. If the absentee ballot has not been received, the affidavit ballot will be counted;
• If you request, complete, and return an absentee ballot, and then request a second absentee ballot, the following applies:
The first absentee ballot received by the Board of Elections will be set aside unopened, so that you have an opportunity to return the second ballot. The second ballot will be opened and counted unless the first ballot has already been opened.
If both ballots are received prior to the deadline, the ballot with the later postmark date is accepted and any other ballots are rejected, unless the first ballot was already opened.
If you return more than one absentee ballot before the deadline, and you also cast an affidavit ballot, the last received ballot (submitted in-person during the election or by mail within the absentee return deadline) will be canvassed and counted.
You may apply online to request an absentee ballot. Once you request the absentee ballot, voting in-person using the voting machine is no longer an option during Early Voting or on the Primary or General Election Day. You will only be permitted to vote by affidavit ballot.
Our Vote is Our Voice.
A one-stop hub for members of the John Jay College community to learn about their voting rights, how/when to register to vote, background and positions of candidates and elected officials and to address their voter needs, questions, and/or concerns.