For the first time, a commission rather the Legislature has been charged with drawing new lines for state and congressional districts in New York.
On Wednesday, that commission, the New York Independent Redistricting Commission (NYIRC), released the first drafts of its maps.
From the grumbling heard during their Zoom meeting, it’s not surprising that this bipartisan group couldn’t come to consensus. Instead, it released two sets of maps for congressional lines, state Senate lines and Assembly lines.
“I can’t help but regret the fact that we weren’t able to come to a consensus,” said Sen. Jack Martins, the Republican co-director of the commission. “We tried, and the opportunity was for naught.”
According to Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, it’s not surprising there was no consensus because the stakes are so high.
“Given what happened last time with the House of Representatives (having) to decide whether they were going to accept the Electoral College votes, it’s critically clear that this could have historic implications,” he said.
Blue states, like New York, with strong Democratic majorities in their state legislatures, are feeling tremendous urgency to re-draw congressional lines in a way that will make electing Republicans much tougher.
The congressional lines drawn by the Democrats on the commission reflect that urgency. In upstate New York for example, three Republican districts are skewed in a way to benefit a potential Democratic contender.
“It looks like the potential exists to combine Claudia Tenney’s (R-New Hartford) and Elise Stefanik’s (R-Schuylerville) districts into one,” Horner explained. “By doing that, and expanding John Katko’s (R-Camillus) district into Utica, it could capture Democratic voters for that district.”
The “special sauce for Democrats," according to Horner, who has studied at least five rounds of redistricting in New York, is to combine Republican members into one district.
Republicans, meanwhile, are trying to strengthen upstate Republican districts.
“It looked to me like they were trying to pull in rural voters by moving, what looked like, the Katko district up to Lake Ontario and pulling in potential Republican voters,” Horner explained. “And the same thing with Tenney’s district, by moving the northern part of the district up into the Adirondacks.”
The final lines from the commission will need to be reviewed by the Legislature in early 2022.
Again, these maps are first drafts. The public will get a chance to weigh in on them at these locations and times:
Wednesday, October 20
Buffalo State College (SUNY)
Burchfield Penney Art Center
1300 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, New York 14222
Thursday, October 21
Rochester EOC (SUNY UCAWD)
161 Chestnut Street
Rochester, New York 14604
Monday, October 25
Binghamton University (SUNY)
Innovative Technologies Complex
85 Murray Hill Road
Vestal, New York 13850
Tuesday, October 26
Syracuse University College of Law
Melanie Gray Ceremonial Courtroom
Dineen Hall, 950 Irving Avenue
Syracuse, New York 13210
Wednesday, October 27
E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium
Hawkins Hall, 101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, New York 12901
Monday, November 1
University at Albany (SUNY)
Page Hall – Downtown Campus
135 Western Avenue
Albany, New York 12203