Announcing the New York Census and Redistricting Institute

New York Law School Launches New York Census and Redistricting Institute Ahead of Critical 2020 Census and State and City Redistricting

Renowned Census and Redistricting Expert Jeffrey M. Wice Joins NYLS as a Senior Fellow to Lead Programs and Collaborate With Government, Nonprofit, and Foundation Partners 

Announcing the New York Census and Redistricting Institute

New York, NY (November 7, 2019) – New York Law School (NYLS) today announced the launch of its New York Census and Redistricting Institute. The Institute will engage and educate public institutions, nonprofit organizations, and the public about law and policy relating to the national census in 2020 and subsequent city and state redistricting. It is the first institute of its kind for a New York City academic institution and will provide unique and timely research opportunities for NYLS students. 

Jeffrey M. Wice, a national census expert and preeminent authority on New York redistricting, will lead the Institute’s legal and policy efforts as its Inaugural Fellow. NYLS Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell and NYLS Associate Dean and General Counsel Matt Gewolb will also direct the Institute’s work, including its collaboration with NYLS’s Center for New York City Law and Impact Center for Public Interest Law, local and state government offices, and leading foundations and nonprofits.

“New York Law School is proud to help lead this effort to impact the shape of our districts and the equitable allocation of representation and resources for all New Yorkers,” said Anthony W. Crowell, Dean and President of NYLS. “We look forward to providing expert and objective analysis at a pivotal time for our city, state, and nation. Having served as a 1990 Census fieldworker for the federal government during college, and having helped lead New York’s 2010 Census efforts at City Hall, I understand the urgent need for engagement on census and redistricting issues from all levels throughout the city and state.”

“An accurate 2020 Census count is critical to fair congressional, state, and local redistricting,” said Jeffrey Wice. “New York is at a turning point, with a new state advisory redistricting commission drafting congressional and state legislative lines and major member turnover in the City Council after 2021. So much depends on how legislative districts are drawn. New Yorkers need to understand how redistricting relates to better government and participate in the process.”

“Our democracy depends on the census, which is why it is so critically important that it be an accurate count of the population,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “From allocating federal resources to determining Congressional representation, the census has significant impacts on all of us and we must ensure that New Yorkers are prepared to participate. I commend New York Law School for launching this institute and selecting Jeff Wice to lead this vital initiative.”

“I am thrilled that New York Law School is leveraging its tremendous legal expertise and close relationships with public and private institutions toward ensuring a complete census count in 2020,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “With our representation in Congress and potentially billions of dollars in federal funding on the line, the consequences of an undercount could be devastating for our city. For this reason, the Council and the de Blasio Administration dedicated a total of $40 million in the City’s budget toward a coordinated census plan, including $19 million going directly to community-based organizations to conduct outreach. We welcome NYLS’s expertise and partnership to further inform and expand our comprehensive campaign to count every New Yorker.”

“The 2020 Census will determine how New York City is resourced and represented for the next decade,” said Julie Menin, Director of NYC Census 2020. “In 2010, our census self-response rate was 62%, compared to the national average of 76%. We must do better. The education and mobilization of New Yorkers around the Census will be key to achieving a full and accurate count in 2020 and we are grateful for New York Law School’s investment in this critical venture.  Our political power from Congress and the Electoral College down to state and local levels of government is on the line and we cannot risk another undercount.”

“To avoid an undercount of large immigrant populations like New York City, we must do everything in our power to ensure that all New Yorkers are counted,” said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “Billions of dollars of federal funding and multiple Congressional seats are at stake in an undercount. We look forward to partnering with New York Law School to ensure an accurate count and equitable redistricting for New York.”

Given New York’s unparalleled diversity, a full and accurate census count is critical to ensuring that the city and state continue to have federal and local elected representation proportionate to their actual populations. This is even more urgent due to the results of the last census in 2010, which is widely believed to have significantly undercounted New York’s population, resulting in two lost Congressional seats after reapportionment. The state is already projected to lose up to another two seats after 2020. Strong electoral representation is vital to New York receiving its fair share of federal resources.

To further these goals, the Institute will engage in the following activities:

  • Advising state and local government officials on best practices and strategies to ensure that all New Yorkers are counted in the 2020 Census.
  • Partnering with organizations conducting census outreach to provide them with technical guidance and assistance as they develop public engagement programs.
  • Providing briefings and assistance to members of the U.S. Congress, State Legislature, and City Council on how to effectively count “hard-to-count communities” where census response rates are lowest. 
  • After the 2020 Census, offering expertise on the upcoming redistricting process, in which the State Legislature will appoint a new advisory redistricting commission for the first time.
  • Analyzing the redistricting processes employed by municipalities throughout New York and working with municipalities on their own redistricting processes. 
  • Researching court decisions to provide information relevant to potential redistricting litigation and guidance on potential reforms to the redistricting process. 
  • Engaging in related public policy developments affecting voting and elections in the city and state, especially as the city may adopt ranked-choice voting and similarly impactful election reforms. 
  • Providing access to cloud-based redistricting platforms where students and the public can engage in drawing model legislative districts.

As part of this initiative, NYLS will establish a new elective course focused on census, redistricting, and election law, which has not been taught at most New York-area law schools.

About Jeffrey M. Wice

Jeffrey M. Wice has over 40 years of experience working in redistricting, voting rights, and census law. He is considered a national expert on redistricting and has been included in Roll Call’s list of the top 50 Washington policy insiders. “Of counsel” to the Washington, D.C. law firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C., Mr. Wice has assisted many state legislative leaders, members of Congress, and other state and local government officials on redistricting and voting rights matters across the nation. 

During the 1980s, he developed the first national Democratic Party redistricting assistance program, working with state legislative leaders preparing for the 1990 Census and redistricting process. During the 1990s, he served as a counsel to President Bill Clinton’s appointees to the 2000 federal Census Monitoring Board. Since the post-2000 and post-2010 redistricting cycles, Mr. Wice served as counsel to the Democratic National Committee and other national redistricting projects. 

In New York, he serves as a long-time counsel to the New York State Legislature and has assisted in all congressional and state legislative redistricting processes since the 1980 cycle. In New York City, he served as a counsel to the post-2000 and 2010 City Council redistricting commissions. He is a co-editor of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) 2020 Redistricting Law Handbookand contributed to the 1990, 2000, and 2010 editions. Mr. Wice has also served in several NCSL leadership positions, including on the national Executive Committee and currently as Staff Chair of the Elections and Redistricting Committee. He is a Fellow at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and has taught election law at Hofstra Law School and the Touro Law Center. He holds a B.A. from The George Washington University and a J.D. from the Antioch School of Law.