New York’s redistricting commission failed to come to a consensus on congressional and state district lines on Monday, giving Democratic lawmakers the chance to enact their own plan.
In two 5–5 votes, the independent commission agreed to send both a map drawn by Republicans and one by Democrats to the legislature, where Democrats hold supermajorities. State law gives the Senate and Assembly a choice of accepting one of those proposals or instructing the commission to try again, with a Feb. 28 deadline.
If lawmakers still don’t like the maps after that, they can draw their own version and send that to Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for her consideration.
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Commission Chairman David Imamura (D) said the panel agreed on large portions of the maps but not on an entire proposal.
He criticized members of the opposing party for “seeming indifference to public interest and unwillingness to put pen to paper and modify their maps.” Vice Chairman Jack Martins (R) said, “We didn’t reach an agreement simply because one side turned their backs and walked away without explanation.”
New York’s experiment in composing congressional and legislative boundaries that don’t try to give incumbents easier re-elections has been bogged down in partisanship for more than a year. The 10-member panel failed to agree on the choice of a chair and in September put out two sets of draft maps after a partisan deadlock.
The commission, created by a 2014 amendment to the state’s Constitution, was hamstrung by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state legislature, which delayed by a year the money needed for the panel to hire staff and start its work. The late arrival of U.S. Census data further shortened the panel’s timeframe.
On Dec. 22, the four Republican panel members, and one of the members who is not affiliated with either party, put out a statement accusing the Democrats of moving a partisan plan forward. The four Democratic members, along with one not affiliated with either party, later put out their own statement, saying they proposed new maps that reflect public comment and compromises.
“It is completely unknown whether they’ll be able to meet again and agree,” said Jeffrey M. Wice, adjunct professor and senior fellow at the New York Census and Redistricting Institute, New York Law School. “It’s up to the legislature now to vote on each plan.”
Petitioning for the June primary should begin around March 1, Wice said, adding, “The legislature needs to act quickly.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at firstname.lastname@example.org