In drawing the Common Cause Reform Maps, we started from a blank slate without any reference to current political districts or incumbents. Our base map included only the geography of the state (cities, towns, villages, school districts, streets, parks, etc.) and the relevant census data. Accordingly, our districts are not drawn as adjustments to the existing districts.
We identified the criteria that we believed should guide our drawing of non-partisan districts and discussed those criteria with our advisors, Professor Gerald Benjamin of SUNY-New Paltz, Professor James Gardner, Buffalo Law School, and Kent Gardner, PhD, Center for Governmental Research, Rochester, modifying or explaining the final criteria as suggested. The criteria which we used are discussed below.
In addition to studying the demographics of each area of the state, we reviewed testimony from LATFOR hearings and had discussions with activists and community groups in Rochester, Buffalo, the Southern Tier, Syracuse, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and various parts of New York City. We are grateful for the input and assistance we received from our academic advisers and the interested activists and community groups who assisted us in identifying and reflecting, we hope, the relevant communities of interest in the Common Cause Reform Maps.
For each level of government (Congress, the State Senate, and State Assembly), we began mapping at the eastern end of Long Island and worked our way through the state. We used Arc-GIS with the Caliper Corporation’s “Maptitude for Redistricitng” add-on as the map-drawing software, which is the same software used by LATFOR in the official map-drawing process. Census blocks are the basic unit used by this software.
In addition to the basic demographic data obtained from the U.S. Census that comes pre-loaded with the Maptitude software (overall population, voting age population, and breakdowns by race/ethnicity), we added additional relevant socio-economic data from the U.S. Census’ “American Community Survey 2005-2009.” This data included median household income, educational attainment, homeownership, public transit use, percentage of seniors and children in the population, type of occupation (“white collar,” “blue collar,” or service sector), and country of origin (% foreign born).
U.S. Census “Group Quarters” data was used to identify the census blocks which represent prison populations. We received assistance and data from the Prison Policy Institute in identifying the appropriate census blocks. We removed the populations of incarcerated persons from the areas in which they are
incarcerated. We have not been able to re-allocate those persons back to their district of last residence because the data from the Department of Corrections containing the relevant information is not publicly available and the analyzed data has not been publicly released by LATFOR.
Once we had an initial draft map for each of the three bodies, we reviewed them with our academic advisers and asked for feedback from some community groups. We adjusted the maps based on the comments and suggestions we received. We also benefited from the advice of Kathay Feng, Executive Director of Common Cause California and Justin Levitt, formerly of The Brennan Center, and now Associate Professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California. We are grateful to them for the time they took and the help and advice we received. Common Cause/NY, and not its advisors, is solely responsible for the Reform Maps
Only after the maps were finalized did we determine the residences of the incumbents in New York’s congressional and state legislative delegations, and create an overlay map that indicates the location of those residences. No adjustments to the Common Cause Reform Maps were made based on what we learned regarding the residence of current incumbents in relation to the district maps we drew.
When the Common Cause Reform Maps were loaded onto the interactive mapping component of Newsday’s U Map NY website, relevant voting data was applied to the Reform Maps. We were thus able, after drawing the maps, to assess the probable political leaning of the reform districts we had drawn. At our suggestion, U Map NY uses the election results from the 2008 presidential election as a good measure of voting patterns in federal elections. To gauge the political impact of the New York state legislative lines, we suggested using the average of the results for legislative elections in the most recent (2010) election, and we calculated and provided those figures for inclusion in U Map NY.