Independent constituency commission fails to reach consensus, issues competing maps


Map of Congress of Democrats on the left; Congress Republican map on the right.

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Map of Congress of Democrats on the left; Congress Republican map on the right.

Independent constituency commission

The bipartisan state commission charged with redrawing the maps of legislative districts and Congress released two competing draft proposals on Wednesday after Democrats and appointed Republicans failed to agree on a set of maps.

The Independent Redistricting Commission’s unanimous decision to release the Dueling Cards for the Assembly, State Senate, and Congressional Districts undermined the commission’s stated goal of eliminating politics in the creation process. redistribution cards, which takes place every ten years after the census.

The result left many concerned that the final project would again be influenced by politics.

“There is great potential that this commission could overthrow a very partisan product,” said Jennifer Williams, deputy director of the New York League of Women Voters.

READ MORE: “Redistricting Means Power”: New Yorkers Have a Say in Deciding Their District Boundaries

The redistribution was left to the state legislature until 2014, when voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the commission. However, a 2014 referendum provision seen as fail-safe allows the state legislature to completely reject the commission’s cards and create its own cards. If the commission publishes competing final maps again in the coming months, it will allow the state legislature to exploit that security. This would benefit the Democrats who currently control both the State Assembly and Senate.

Drawing the lines of Congress will serve as the main battleground between Democrats and Republicans, as their maps are likely to have a major influence on the 2022 midterm elections. With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives by the narrowest margins, the Democratic-controlled state legislature is likely to approve cards that favor their party in time for mid-terms. A similar move occurs in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, pressuring the New York legislature to accommodate Democrats just as the state is on the verge of losing a seat in Congress in the north of the state.

This pressure is illustrated by the congressional set of competing cards. The proposed Republican card removed a Democratic seat currently held by Representative Antonio Delgado, while Democrats offered to eliminate a Republican seat held by Representative Tom Reed. Meanwhile, the city’s only congressional district in New York City, currently represented by Representative Nicole Malliotakis, has been kept intact in both versions.

People nominated by the Republicans decried the Democrats’ cartographic approach, saying they had misinterpreted the set of constitutional guidelines they had to follow in drawing the maps. The cards should be contiguous, have roughly the same number of people, and avoid dividing marginalized communities of color to avoid deprivation of voters’ right to vote. The idea is to avoid gerrymandering, a process where district lines are manipulated to favor one party over another.

READ MORE: Divided neighborhoods demand more political influence with new redistribution maps

Some Republicans have argued that congressional cards could violate federal law because there are a disproportionate number of people in certain districts, and a signal that any final card could be challenged in court.

“I can’t help but be disappointed and regret that we have not been able, as a committee, to put together a single product,” said Jack Martins, appointed Republican and former senator. state, before approving plans.

But those Democratic nominees stressed that these cards are only drafts that give New Yorkers greater options in deciding which they prefer.

“Everything right now doesn’t have to be perfect,” said Eugene Benger, a Democrat-appointed.

The maps were posted on the commission’s website shortly after the meeting. New Yorkers will be allowed to comment on the proposed cards in a series of hearings starting in October (a full list of dates, times and locations can be found here). Over the summer, the commission held similar listening sessions statewide to solicit comments.

Commissioners had drawn up the plans in a short timeframe, due to a funding delay to convene the expert group, as well as a four-month delay in releasing the census data needed to develop the maps. . The delay gave cartographers just under a month to draw the district boundaries.

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