New York redistricting panel surrenders over impasse
Members of New York State’s independent redistricting commission traded angry accusations over an impasse ahead of a Tuesday deadline to submit new U.S. House district maps, likely handing Democrats in the legislature an opportunity to cement a massive advantage in the decade ahead.
The bipartisan commission has been working since last year to come up with new map lines. Earlier this month, the Democratic-controlled legislature rejected proposals from both Democratic and Republican commissioners to draw new lines.
After two weeks back at the drawing board, commissioners said Monday they were unable to reach an agreement. Commissioners sent out separate statements blaming the other party for its intransigence.
“We have negotiated with our Republican colleagues in good faith for two years to achieve a single consensus plan. At every step, they have refused to agree to a compromise,” Democratic commissioners said in their statement. “Republicans are intentionally running out the clock to prevent the Commission from voting on second maps by its [Jan. 25] deadline.”
Republicans said Democrats used the commission’s rules — which hand control of the remapping process to the legislature in the event of a stalemate — to slow roll the process.
“The Democrat appointed commissioners have no incentive to work cooperatively toward a consensus plan and, in fact, they purposely scuttled the process so that the determination of district lines would be tossed back to a legislature controlled by Democrat super-majorities,” the Republican commissioners charged.
The discord now leaves power to draw new lines in the hands of legislative Democrats, who have signaled they plan an aggressive bid to cement control over the state’s U.S. House delegation.
Whatever comes out of Albany is almost certain to give Democrats a chance to grow their current advantage, even as New York loses a congressional seat in the wake of another decade of stagnant population growth.
Democrats currently hold 19 of 27 districts. By the end of the redistricting process, they could put themselves in a position to control as many as 23 of the remaining 26 districts.
Democrats are likely to substantially redraw a Staten Island-based district held by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R). In a sign of confidence in their ability to put in play the lone Republican-leaning district in New York City, ex-Rep. Max Rose (D), who lost to Malliotakis in 2020, has said he will run for office again.
Democrats would also target districts held by Reps. Tom Reed (R) and John Katko (R), both of whom are retiring this year. Both Reed and Katko ousted Democratic incumbents to win their seats.
Both redistricting reform advocates and New York Republicans bemoaned the commission’s failure to come to an agreement.
“This commission has been a sham since day one when Democrats totally co-opted the process,” state Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy said in a statement. “It’s painfully obvious that their crooked plan was always to sabotage the work of the commission and put the power back in the hands of Democrat leaders in the legislature who are starving for even more power.”
Langworthy hinted at litigation to come.
The legislature’s plans are likely to diverge significantly from the proposals put forward by both Democratic and Republican members of the commission, which were then rejected by the legislature.
The map drawn by Democratic commissioners would have created 18 heavily Democratic seats and five Republican-leaning districts, along with three that would have been highly competitive. The Democratic map would have pitted Reps. Antonio Delgado (D) and Claudia Tenney (R) against each other, while endangering both Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) in the Hudson Valley and a seat currently held by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), who is running for governor, on Long Island.
The Republican-drawn map would have created 17 Democratic-leaning seats and six that favored Republicans. Their version also drew Delgado and Tenney together, though it would have given Tenney a distinct edge. Districts held by Maloney and Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R) and Tom Suozzi (D), who is running for governor, would have been competitive.
Most of the differences between the two maps were in districts on Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, along with the shape of the district Delgado and Tenney would have competed over.
New York is one of a handful of states where voters approved measures over the last decade to reform the redistricting process by handing power over mapmaking to a commission outside the legislature.
But like New York, several of those commissions have hit gridlock between partisan members. Commissions in Virginia and Ohio both ran into insurmountable disagreements, while a long-standing commission in Washington state narrowly missed a deadline to reach their own agreement. That commission finally agreed to a map it then forwarded to the state Supreme Court, which has final say because of the botched deadline.
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