ALBANY – New Yorkers are encouraged to speak out on factors they believe should be considered when new boundaries are drawn for congressional and state legislative districts.
The process is overseen by the New York State Independent Redistribution Commission. Similar efforts are underway in all 50 states.
The new lines that emerge from the redistribution will shape the way New York residents are governed for the next decade.
The commission began collecting feedback this week with the first in a series of eight virtual forums targeting different areas of New York City.
Vital demographics for the redistribution will be released by August 16 by the US Census Bureau.
These statistics should provide a glimpse of how the ethical, racial and voting age makeup of neighborhoods has changed since the census 10 years ago.
“While the primary purpose of this data is for states to redistribute their districts, these statistics will also tell us how many people live in each county, in each city and in each block,” James Whitehorne, head of redistricting and voting at the Census Bureau. . Rights Data Office, said in a statement.
In New York, drawing new lines in Congress is likely to spark turf battles in political circles, as the state will lose one of its 27 congressional districts. In the most recent population count, the state only had 89 residents below what was needed to avoid the loss of a seat.
Supporters of the updated New York redistribution effort say it hijacks power from political leaders and is designed to secure more competitive elections.
But suspicion persists about the process, and several elected officials strongly urge residents to make their voices heard during the virtual forums that will be held on Zoom.
“Political games have no place in our dear democracy,” said US Representative Elise Stefanik, R-North Country, Chair of the House GOP Conference. “The only way to ensure a fair and equitable redistribution process is to build transparency and participation into it. “
While Stefanik is often criticized by Progressive Democrats, his district has been viewed by the Cook Political Report as a reliable Republican.
For this reason, if Democrats decide to target a particular Democrat through redistribution, it is likely that Stefanik District will not be their focus, as it would be more strategic to tinker with a seat where the change might have. impact, said Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University,
The redistribution in New York, said Reeher, produced “a paradox of good government goals colliding with political realities.”
If the goal is to shift a seat of control from one party to another, Reeher said, a possible target could be U.S. Representative Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford. Because Tenney reclaimed his old seat in the last election by a very slim margin, “you could make a difference quite easily there” by changing the district lines, Reeher said.
Tenney’s opponent in 2018 and 2020, former U.S. Representative Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, recently announced that he will no longer run for the seat in 2022.
As for the state legislature, the Assembly is so pro-Democrats now that their party is likely to retain a qualified majority no matter what happens with the lines, Reeher said.
In the Senate, Republicans are also at a disadvantage, holding just 20 of 63 seats, but if controversies over various state policies bolster their efforts in 2022, they could find themselves at a striking distance from Democrats in future election cycles. observed Reeher.
Some political observers have noted that it is important to create a register of concerns about how the lines are drawn, as statements provided to the committee could be used to challenge decisions that emerge from the process.
Either way, providing feedback to the 10-member panel will help make the process fair, said Assembly member Joe Angelino, R-Norwich.
“The people should be the primary voice in how they wish to be represented in their legislature and in Congress,” Angelino said.
There will be four virtual forums for the northern regions of the state, with their schedule as follows:
• August 2, 2 p.m., for the Mid Hudson Valley and the Capital region;
• August 5, 2 p.m., for North Country / Mohawk Valley regions;
• August 9, 2 p.m., for Southern Tier / Central New York regions;
• August 12, 2 p.m., for Finger Lakes / Western NY regions.
The lines drawn by the commission are subject to change by a qualified majority of the state legislature.
After releasing the next batch of census data next month, the commission said it would release its first redistribution proposal on September 15. A new round of mandatory hearings will then be scheduled, giving the public the opportunity to comment on the proposed district plans. .
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for newspapers and CNHI websites. Contact him at [email protected]