This is party of my gerrymandering series. I thought I'd start close to home, with NYC. I live in NY-8. NY state, as many will know, is largely 3 parts: NY City, the suburbs, and the rest. This diary is just about NYC
New York City's 8 million live in 5 counties: New York, Kings, Queens, Richmond and Bronx. These are also known as boroughs, where they go by the more familiar names: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx (OK, two names are the same).
Almost all of NYC is solidly Democratic (except Staten Island - NY 13). But it still has some weird looking CDs.
The 5 counties include all or part of 13 CDs (the 5 through the 17th); the 7th,, 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th and 15th are in two counties within the city, the 12th is in three counties. And the 5th and 17th are only partly NYC.
Oddly, perhaps, one of the few CDs in NYC that doesn't look at all gerrymandered is the 13th, which is also the only Republican CD (for those who do not know, Staten Island is legally part of NYC, but it acts and feels compeletely differently).
Here's a picture of NY's CD's highlight one of the weirdest looking, the 12th
My district, the 8th is represented by Nadler. The 12th is represented by Velazquez, the 11th by Owens (Owens is retiring and will be replaced by another Dem, Yvette Clarke). All three are solidly liberal Democrats. Any way you split these CDs, they would all elect Democrats by huge margins. In 2006, Nadler got 83% of the vote, Velazquez got 89% and Clarke got 89%. But guess what? Nadler's district is one of the most Jewish, and, yup, Nadler's Jewish. Clarke's district is 58% Black, and, yup, so is she. And Velazquez' district? You guess right again! It's almost half Latino, and, although names don't always reveal ethnicity, this time they do - she is from Puerto Rico.
Looking a little farther East, the 9th CD wraps around weirdly to include all the mostly-White neighborhoods: Forest Hills (one of the most heavily Jewish neighborhoods in the city); Howard Beach (50% Italian); Kew Gardens (ethnically diverse, but mostly from various parts of Europe and Asia); Marine Park (mostly Irish); Midwood (Jewish); Middle Village (diverse); Ozone Park (mixed, but mostly Eastern Europe and Southern Asian); Rego Park (recent Russian Jewish immigrants); Rockaway Beach (known as the Irish Riviera); Gerritsen Beach (mostly undeveloped, by NYC standards); Sheepshead Bay (Russia, former Soviet countries); and Woodhaven, which, for a change, is mostly Latino. The CDs it wraps around are the 12th and 10th.
Given all this, it's a bit odd that NY 7, quite possibly the most ethnically diverse CD in the entire country - there is one high school where the students come from 100 countries with almost 60 native languages, and guides to 'ethnic' eating speak glowingly of the number 7 train line that runs through the district - is represented by Joseph Crowley, a White Catholic.
All this gets a bit confusing, so, here's a table:
In a diary to come later this week, I will examine whether the voting rights act, which led to such things, should be substantially amended.
But here, let me ask if this sort of district serves any of its constituents. Do I, a resident of the upper west side of manhattan, have more in common with people at the far end of Brooklyn than I do with my neighbors across Central Park? I put forth that I do not.
Could the 11th and 12th districts look more 'normal' and, nevertheless, elect one Latino and one Black? I think they could.
And, if, perish the thought, a White person represented a majority Latino district, or a Black person a majority white district, or any other glorious compbination, could they not, nevertheless, do a good job of representing their constituents? Doesn't Nadler represent the non-Jews of the 8th, Velazquez the non-Latinos of the 11th, and Clarke the non-Blacks of the 12th? Indeed they do. And it is insulting to the representatives and the constituents alike to imagine that such contorted districts are necessary or beneficial.
Yet another aspect is that, to whatever extent having the same congressman makes people feel closer (not much, I admit) is it really good for us to further separate the racial ethnic groups this way?
One final idea, gotten from Mark Mommonier's book Bushmanders and Bullwinkles, is to measure gerrymandering by the length of description of a CD in the Congressional District Atlas. This isn't online, but I plan to order it.