Evenwel Could Have Tremendous Impact on New York Senate & Assembly Districts

Today’s New York Times editorializes on how two Texas voters in the Evenwel case are challenging the use of overall population for redistricting. “They want to force the state to count only the number of voters in apportioning districts. This approach, besides being at odds with long-accepted practice, is both inflexible and impractical. The census, which provides the data that most states use, counts people, not voters,”

The Times editorial continues,  “the plaintiffs know that getting rid of a system that counts all people would hurt Democratic-leaning urban areas with large, noncitizen Latino populations, and would favor rural and conservative areas where more Republicans live. In other words, the suit is an effort to transfer political power from Democratic to Republican regions. The Supreme Court has never required that states follow this or any other specific method of apportionment, and there is no reason to start now.”

The CUNY Mapping Service has created an excellent interactive map website enabling readers to compare legislative district populations by overall population and Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP). Should the Evenwel  plaintiffs succeed in having the U.S.Supreme Court rule that either voting age population  (VAP), the numbers impacting state legislative districts would be comprehensive and would shift districts both within counties and regionally from the downstate metropolitan area to upstate New York.

Under the set of legislative lines enacted in 2012, the average size of each Senate district is 307,356 persons. An Assembly district averages 129,039 persons. The overall deviation from the largest to smallest Assembly districts is 7.94% (many upstate districts are overpopulated; downstate districts are underpopulated, but all are within the overall limit of 10%).

Assembly District 84 (now represented by Democrat Carmen Arroyo) has 126,411 residents according to the 2010 census. If the district was based on citizen population estimates provided by the Census Bureau (and not using the decennial census as a baseline but a mid-decade estimate), the 84th district drops to 57,800 persons (a loss of 68,611 residents for the redistricting population base).

Assembly district 114, represented by Republican Dan Stec, has a current population of 132,752. If the district population was based on CVAP, the population drops to 106,930 (a loss of only 25,822 residents).

From these two examples, it becomes easy to see how populations would shift from New York City (with large numbers of non-citizens and children) to more rural areas.

Note- the 2012 legislative lines enacted by the state were based on certifiable 2010 decennial census data. The CVAP data is based on population estimates determined by the Census Bureau using the American Community Survey.

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