New York lawmakers face calls for hearings on new district maps | News

ALBANY — Leaders of good government groups on Wednesday called on the New York Legislature to hold public hearings before passing new maps of Congress and legislative districts in the coming days.

The independent state redistricting commission has so far failed to agree on a single set of maps for lawmakers to consider, after holding public hearings starting last fall on drafts of political maps submitted by the Democratic and Republican commissioners.

This means the legislature can now start from scratch and adopt its own set of maps that will define political boundaries for the next decade. These cards could vary significantly from those the public had the opportunity to weigh in on. A small group of lawmakers and staff from the six member state working group on demographic research and redistribution are currently working on the maps behind the scenes.

“Communities affected by the amendments, including those protected by the Voting Rights Act, should be given the opportunity to provide their input in a public hearing,” leaders of several suffrage groups said Wednesday and good government in a letter to legislators.

They also called for the maps and underlying data to be released for public viewing before any votes are taken, and said lawmakers should adhere to voters’ endorsement in 2014 of a ban on partisan gerrymandering.

Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Wednesday that the Legislative Assembly plans to vote on its own maps next week.

The Democratic-led legislature faces a tight deadline to complete its work: Election commissions across the state are gearing up for March 1, when political candidates must begin collecting signatures to run for office.

“We realize time for this will be limited, but it is important to demonstrate that the Legislative Assembly has the public interest in mind rather than partisan interest,” the Good Government Groups said.

The letter was sent by League of New York State Women Voters Executive Director Laura Ladd Bierman, New York City Citizens Union Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum and Executive Director by Reinvent Albany, John Kaehny.

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Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic leader in the Senate, told reporters on Tuesday that the public had been given an opportunity to comment on the overall redistricting process.

She pointed out that, like other bills, maps of political districts will be submitted and posted on the state’s website. The cards would then have to “age” for three consecutive days of legislative session before lawmakers can vote.

“We’ll try to be fast again, but also give people the opportunity to see what’s going on,” she said.

Her office did not immediately respond to a question Wednesday about whether she was willing to hold public hearings or release underlying data.

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Republican, criticized Democrats for “rushing with partisan redistricting.”

“Rather than scrambling in the back room, partisan maps, there should be a 10-day public review of any potential plan that affects the representation of New Yorkers for the next 10 years,” Ortt said.

The stakes are high for Republicans, who fear Democrats with supermajorities in both chambers could fight their way to as many as four or five seats.

Census data released last summer shows New York will lose its 27th congressional seat due to population loss largely in declining, conservative upstate communities.

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