Seven years ago, New York voters approved a constitutional amendment that created an independent commission to redraw congressional and state legislative districts after each census. However, that panel’s first attempt at redistricting, released this week, ended up approving two drafts of maps for the time being.
The vote this week by the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission was not a final action. Public hearings still need to be held across the state in the coming weeks to garner public input. However, the two congressional maps show that the independent, bipartisan commission may have some challenges to overcome, especially since the state is losing a seat in Congress.
According to an analysis from FiveThirtyEight.com, the dueling maps have some distinctions. The map nicknamed “Letters,” according to the political analysis site shows the loss of one Republican-leaning seat. Across the 26 new districts, there would be 17 leaning Democratic, six leaning Republican and three considered to be “highly competitive.”
The “Letters” map would also put Republican U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney in the same district as Democratic U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado. Tenney, who previously served in Congress but lost in 2018, won one of the closest and most contested elections in the country this past year when she unseated former U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi by just 109 votes.
The map nicknamed “Names” meanwhile would create eight Republican-leaning districts in the state, compared to 15 for Democrats. In addition, that map creates three districts where two Democrats would potentially compete against each other, including Delgado’s district, which would also include areas represented by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, a fellow Democrat.
Republicans claimed that Democrats did not follow the rules in establishing districts on its map.
Charles Nesbitt, a former state assemblyman and a Republican member of the commission, said he supported making the two maps public because he felt there was no other choice.
“But I think it should not be a precedent,” he said. “We are precedent-setting, but I believe that a fair reading of the constitution does not contemplate this process that we’re about to go forward on. So let’s do better.”
New York State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy was less diplomatic in his response. He called the twin-map process a “political sham” and said it was like other processes the Democratic Party leads in the state.
“Democrats have no interest in negotiating in good faith as evidenced by their Party’s leader [Gov.] Kathy Hochul’s comments she intends to gerrymander Democrats into power,” the GOP chairman said in a statement. “They are going to stonewall and drag this process out, hoping New Yorkers aren’t paying attention so partisan legislators can draw their own maps. We intend to employ every legal and political tool in our arsenal to stop them and ensure New Yorkers are fairly represented.”
Langworthy’s comment about Hochul dates back to an interview she gave The New York Times last month in which the newly sworn-in governor said she had a “responsibility” to lead the party through the redistricting process.
The public hearings on the maps will start on Oct. 20 in Buffalo, with 11 other meetings scheduled for Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, White Plains, each of New York City’s five boroughs and Nassau and Suffolk counties. The schedule can be found here.
This article was originally posted on Way forward for New York’s redistricting process somewhat murky with two competing maps proposed