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Williams critical of Queens redistricting
BY JULIA MORO
Governor Andrew Cuomo
on July 16 signed legislation
sponsored by a Queens senator
that would make voting by
absentee ballot easier.
State Senator Michael Gianaris
sponsored the bill in order
to ensure more absentee
ballots are valid and counted.
“At a time when voting
rights are under attack in
other states, New York is doing
the right thing by making
it easier to vote, not harder,”
“I am grateful the legislature
passed my bill with
Assembly member Bichotte
Hermelyn to ensure more valid
votes are counted and am
pleased it is being signed into
law today,” Gianaris said.
Gianaris’ legislation temporarily
eliminates the need
to request an absentee ballot
by a signed application. It
will also deem absentee ballots
with a postmark up to and
including the deadline countable.
Federal write-in absentee
ballots, military ballots,
special presidential ballots
and special federal ballots received
after Election Day have
to contain a postmark, cancellation
mark or witness dated
Election Day or earlier.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo
also supported the bill,
saying it would ensure absentee
ballots be counted more
consistently with other votes
on Election Day.
“I supported this bill to
increase the accessibility for
registered voters to cast their
vote, while still protecting the
integrity of the voting process,”
Addabbo said. “This bill
takes a positive step towards
ensuring all valid votes are
During the 2020 elections,
absentee ballots were largely
14 TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | JULY 30–AUGUST 5, 2021 BT
questioned by former President
Donald Trump, claiming
the process was often fraudulent,
but none of those claims
were substantiated with any
evidence. The former president
voted by mail himself in
a Florida primary last year,
despite casting doubt on the
process, according to NPR.
Courtesy of Gianaris’ office
According to a Pew Research
Center poll, voting by
mail is popular — and has become
more common since the
COVID-19 pandemic began —
with 70 percent of Americans
favoring the practice.
Reach reporter Julia Moro
BY QNS STAFF
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was joined
by a panel of experts on July 22 to discuss the New
York State Independent Redistricting Commission
(IRC), which will be used for the first time in the
state’s history to redraw lines for elected offices.
The Commission held its first of several public
hearings today which focused on Queens County.
Williams began by criticizing Governor Cuomo
for not doing a good enough job in helping the IRC
prepare for the long process ahead.
“Given the time-sensitive nature of the redistricting
process, it’s really unacceptable that state funding
was not dispersed to the Independent Redistricting
Commission until very recently,” said Williams.
“To be clear, the governor should have taken
much more steps than he did to ensure the IRC was
able to have the necessary time and the funds to hire
staff and conduct public outreach. Because the governor
failed to do so, the IRC is now working on a
very compressed timeline,” Williams continued.
Williams also said he is using his role in office to
make the public aware of the upcoming hearings, so
they can have a say in how the lines are drawn.
“We are trying very hard to sound the alarm,
we’re trying to be a place where people can come together
to get information and also be a connector for
folks,” said Williams.
Today’s public hearing was the first opportunity
for concerned citizens to give the Commission input
before they begin to redraw lines. They will begin
to redraw lines after the Census releases its date on
Aug. 16 and the initial district maps will be released
to the public on Sept. 15 for review.
The Commission will then hold a series of hearings
where residents are allowed to testify and comment
on the redrawn lines. The final district maps
will then be voted on and certified by the Commission
and presented to the state legislature.
“This is the first time that every day New Yorkers
will be able to provide input on the lines. I think
I speak for all the commissioners when I say we intend
to make the most of it,” said IRC Chair David
Imamura during the Queens hearing.
The IRC listened to over 100 residents and advocates
during the hearing. Participants were allowed
up to three minutes of speaking time, with many
showing their own maps and district line ideas.
Written comments were also allowed as well.
Many who spoke were advocating for lines that
would allow the voices of their community to be
more heard. There were a lot of mentions of Richmond
Hill, Ozone Park, South Ozone, East Elmhurst,
and Corona and how the lines split the South Asian
and Indo Caribbean communities in these areas.
They also spoke as to how the current lines divide
Queens and make it harder for people to have their
“These gerrymandered districts seek to quell the
voices of our city,” said Paperboy Prince, a former
candidate for mayor.
Martha Ayon of New Reformers said, “In Queens,
crossing the street leads to different electoral representation.”
Danielle Brecker of Empire State Indivisible
shared the sentiment. “The lines appear arbitrary
and do not reflect neighborhood and community borders
because they are likely in the palace for political
The redistricting process influences where the
lines are drawn and can have implications when it
comes to how communities are served.
In the past, the redistricting process has been a
very political process, as politicians have tried to
get lines drawn in ways they felt would favor them
in elections. The creation of IRC is intended to serve
the best interests of the residents first.
Reach QNS Editorial by e-mail at editorial@qns.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. (Screenshot by Ariel
Cuomo signs Queens senator’s
absentee voting reform into law
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