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New York Voting Rights Organizations Urge Governor Cuomo To Promptly Order Special Election For 12 Vacant Legislative Seats

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3/18/14

New York, NY—Twelve legislative seats in the New York State Assembly and State Senate are currently vacant, depriving approximately 1.8 million New Yorkers, over 800,000 of whom are people of color, of their fundamental right to representation.

Today, the New York Voting Rights Consortium, a group of leading local and national voting rights advocates, urged New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to order a special election for all twelve of the vacant seats in the State Assembly and State Senate by April 24, 2014.

“As our letter explains in the strongest possible terms, we are deeply troubled by the reality that, at this moment, hundreds of thousands of our Asian, Black, and Latino constituents are unrepresented in seven districts in Brooklyn and the Bronx. We are profoundly concerned that Governor Cuomo’s failure to act swiftly will deprive these vulnerable communities of critical representation until January 2015, leaving them without the tools to confront and address  significant local everyday concerns and broader statewide legislative priorities,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Director of the Political Participation Group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund, Inc.(LDF), a separate entity from the NAACP.

“To deprive these communities of government representation runs afoul of state and federal law, including the Voting Rights Act, and permits a modern-day version of ‘taxation without representation,” said José Pérez, the Deputy General Counsel and Legal Director for LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“Governor Cuomo’s failure to call for special elections guarantees that over 800,000 voters of color lack political representation during New York’s critical budget negotiation process,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“These voters were also denied a voice during recent votes and debates on other important issues, such as the New York DREAM Act, changes to early childhood education, the appointment of the Board of Regents, and the establishment of early voting,” said Angelo Falcon, the President of the National Institute on Latino Policy (NILP).

“The right to vote and governmental representation is the most fundamental aspect of our free and democratic society. Yet, the inaction to date threatens to deny access to this precious right for 800,000 of our constituents, and many others, who remain unrepresented and denied the opportunity to elect representatives at a critical moment,” said Lucia Gomez-Jimenez, the Executive Director of La Fuente, Inc.

“It is for these reasons that, today, we urge Governor Cuomo to order a special election for all twelve of the vacant seats in the State Assembly and State Senate by April 24, 2014. We strongly urge him to ensure that the disfranchised across the state—and, in particular, voters of color—are afforded an equal opportunity to elect representatives well in advance of the next general election. We have every expectation that he will be receptive to our concerns,” said Esmeralda Simmons, the Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.

The Assembly districts with large populations of voters of color in which the legislative seats are vacant are the 54th, 55th, 59th, and 60th Assembly Districts in Brooklyn, and the 77th and 79th Assembly districts in the Bronx. Also unrepresented is the 20th Senate district in Brooklyn.

The New York Voting Rights Consortium consists of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, AALDEF, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, NILP, and La Fuente, Inc.