The recent release of the 2020 census data, showing that Buffalo’s population grew for the first time in 70 years is an important reminder that redistricting is underway. Thank you to everyone who completed their census forms, this shows how important it is stand up and be counted. We need this kind of community action to secure resources for our city.
Every decade, based on new census data, states are responsible for drawing the lines for state legislature and congressional districts. As Chair of the Erie County Legislature, I am overseeing the county’s redistricting process, which will begin shortly.
This week, I was honored to provide testimony to New York’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission regarding the 26th Congressional District, which currently includes the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls and the inner ring suburbs of Erie County.
At present, Erie County is represented by two congressional districts, the 26th and 27th, which is proper since the population of Erie County, 954,236 as of the 2020 census, is greater than the maximum number comprising one congressional district.
I am strongly urging the commission to draw the successor district to the current 26th District as close to its present version as the law will allow, since the current 26th District is the most ideal congressional district from a good-government perspective in New York, and arguably nationwide. The current lines of New York 26 meet many of the criteria that make a district fair and equitable and are often missing in partisan gerrymandered districts.
The areas that I would like to focus on is the preservation of both the core of the current district and communities of interest.
The present NY-26 unites communities of interest in as effective a manner as any district in the state. It unites municipalities with substantial populations including communities of color – including the Cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Niagara Falls and the towns of Amherst and Cheektowaga – and divides only 2 municipalities in very minor ways to ensure the required population count was met.
Moreover, the district is almost entirely urban and suburban, and does not include any outer-ring suburbs or rural areas.
As an elected official, I have made equity and representation priorities. I have centered discussions regarding the distribution of federal funding around the needs historically disadvantaged communities and have ensured that people of color have been appointed to boards and commissions (making several of them the first non-White appointee in Erie County history.)
Put simply: this district, as comprised today, offers the best opportunity for the election of a candidate who can best represent our community in terms of policy priorities and identity. It also represents one of the best opportunities in upstate New York to elect a person of color to Congress.
Any attempt to divide the urban core of Erie County could negatively impact historically disadvantaged communities throughout our region.
It is essential to the effective representation of our region that the City of Buffalo and its immediate first-ring suburban areas remain united in one congressional district, and that partisan gerrymandering does not divide these areas and dilute the voting strength of these local communities.