November 4, 2021

MEHLER | Redraw Your Own Lines

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Every ten years, the census forces the fifty states to redraw their congressional and state legislature lines with hopes of  better representing their communities. Take advantage of the opportunity to amplify your community’s voice!

Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution mandates that a census be conducted throughout the nation to enumerate the number of people living in the country and allow states to properly allocate representation in Congress.  Each state redraws their own lines.  This decides who is represented in which congressional districts, which state senate and assembly districts, which city and town districts and every level of government in between.  

As of Nov. 2021, every single state is still drawing their new lines.  Some states utilize independent redistricting boards while others have their own state governments draw the new lines.  In thousands of cities, including the City of Ithaca, city councils directly draw their own new lines, deciding who is represented and who becomes or remains marginalized.

For Cornellians specifically, New York’s redistricting process has been underway for months.  College students in New York State make up 9% of the voting electorate with current lines intentionally disenfranchising student voters from Buffalo to Binghamton to the Bronx.  As one of the largest communities of interest in the State (with the potential to be the loudest), student voters have historically been looped in with communities entirely dissimilar to their own, such as Cornell and Ithaca’s current grouping with the entirety of southwestern New York. 

The attempts to silence the voices of college communities are hopefully fading, with the most recent release of New York’s maps for 2022-2032 starting to include college communities together.  After the New York Independent Redistricting Commission did not come to a consensus on one set of maps, the Democratic and Republican halves of the NYIRC each drafted their own “Letterss” and “Names” variants.  At the Congressional, Senate, and Assembly levels, the Democratic “Letters” maps include Cornell with its surrounding collegiate communities.  In the Congressional map, Tompkins County stands unified with Cornell, Ithaca College, SUNY Cortland, TC3, and Syracuse University all under one roof.  The Senate map combines the Ithaca schools with Binghamton University while the Assembly map keeps Cornell and Ithaca College congregated with the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County.  

However, the Republican “Names” maps connect college communities with communities entirely dissimilar.  In the Congressional maps, collegiate voices are diluted by an inclusion with the entirety of southwestern New York.  The Senate and Assembly maps separate Cornell and Ithaca College from our neighboring SUNY Cortland, TC3, and Binghamton University communities.  The need for more collegiate voices to share their frustrations and satisfactions with all of these newly drawn lines is desperately needed.

Regardless of where you call home and who you call your community, the need for younger voices to share their concerns with line drawers cannot be understated.  In New York State, seven more meetings will occur to collect input for the second round of redistricting.  Even if you cannot attend a meeting, New York’s drawers are still receiving  testimony for all communities across the State.  I encourage every person reading this article to take fifteen minutes and look at how their community will be affected by the new lines.  After you have been disgusted or pleasantly surprised by the results, take another fifteen minutes to share your thoughts with the commissioners.  It just might change how you are represented and whose voices are heard.

Patrick J. Mehler is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Tuesday this semester.