This afternoon, I joined over 100 of my Queens neighbors to testify to the New York Independent Redistricting Commission, following is my testimony.
My name is Danielle Brecker, I live in the Dutch Kills neighborhood in Long Island City, Queens — in Congressional District 12, State Senate District 12, and Assembly District 37.
I am a co-lead organizer of Empire State Indivisible. The Indivisible movement is predicated on holding those we elect to serve and the institutions of our democracy to account.
As part of a statewide coalition, Empire State Indivisible helped advocate for the state voting reforms that have enabled more New Yorkers to have access to voting and to participate in our democracy. We see redistricting as an opportunity to build on that progress by enfranchising and engaging more New Yorkers, especially those who have long been disenfranchised by gerrymandering.
Last year, as I helped with the census, I had conversations with my neighbors about why people on the next block or in some cases next door are in different Congressional, State Senate, or Assembly Districts.
I live in Assembly District 37 but if I walk two blocks I’m in Assembly District 30, if I walk five more blocks in the same direction I’m in Assembly District 36. All of those blocks are part of my neighborhood. There are similar situations in my Congressional and State Senate districts. The lines appear arbitrary and do not reflect neighborhood and community borders because they are likely in place for political reasons. This causes confusion and frustration for constituents and in my view leads to disenfranchisement.
As I was preparing this testimony, many people suggested we use redistricting to protect or remove certain elected officials. I reject that, we should redistrict to give more New Yorkers a voice in their representation so they decide who serves them — elected officials should not use redistricting to choose whom they serve.
Redistricting should be fair, not politically driven; have the goal of enabling as much representation for as many people as possible; keep neighborhoods and communities together; and lead to more voter enfranchisement.
While much of our country is limiting representation to protect a few from losing power; New York must take this opportunity to increase representation so the people, all New Yorkers, have power.