July 20, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Queens residents will have a once-in-a-decade chance Thursday to weigh in on how their political districts are shaped.
The Independent Redistricting Commission of New York State is hosting a virtual public meeting Thursday at 2 p.m. to seek comments from Queens residents on the redrawing of district borders.
The meeting follows the 2020 census, which — along with input from residents — will be used to determine the borders of the state and congressional districts.
The district outlines will be drawn by an independent, bipartisan commission for the first time. The commission was created in 2014 in an effort to create a fairer redistricting process.
Previously, lawmakers determined the outlines of districts and would sometimes gerrymander the borders to favor their party. This has resulted in oddly-shaped districts that cut through several small sections of neighborhoods instead of representing full neighborhoods or communities.
For example, New York State Senate District 16 cuts a narrow path across Queens, encompassing parts — just a few blocks in some cases — of nine different community districts.
The 10-member commission—appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders in the state legislature—must balance equitable population sizes between districts, while attempting to keep similar communities together when creating district borders.
“When voters with similar interests are drawn into a district together, their voices multiply giving them a greater opportunity to express their views, elect candidates of their choice and hold their leaders accountable,” the commission said in a statement.
Thursday’s meeting will be the first chance Queens residents can voice their opinions on the current districts and changes they’d like to see.
The commission will begin drawing the first draft of district maps after the Census Bureau releases detailed population data on Aug. 16.
The initial draft of the district maps will be released to the public for review by Sept. 15. The commission will hold another round of public hearings where residents are able to testify on the draft maps.
The commission will incorporate any feedback and create a final draft of district maps that the commissioners will vote on and certify. The maps will then be presented to the New York state legislature.
If state legislators reject the maps twice, the lawmakers will then get to draw their own maps. The Democrats— with supermajorities in both the Assembly and Senate—are theoretically in a position to unilaterally draw district boundaries.
The governor has to sign off on the maps but the Democrats have enough members to override a veto.
Residents can also submit written comments through the commission website.