New York State’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), the 10-member team that redraws voting lines, put out its first set of draft maps for new voting lines last week on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
The bipartisan commission couldn’t agree on one, so they released two competing maps.
Downstate, New York City is largely unchanged though some are a little concerned about Brooklyn’s small Republican section shrinking. Upstate, three of Rochester’s districts are politically split but map makers are considering pushing all districts into one, reported City and State.
New York State maps, in particular, will have a national impact on the U.S. House of Representatives as Democrats attempt to maintain majority control, said City and State.
The IRC is composed of 10 appointed members, four Democrats, four Conservatives, one Independent, and headed by Chairperson David Imamura.
The commission was created in 2014 by voters to draft a redistricting map that will then be voted on by the state legislature, but that’s usually just one map.
“We were not able to come to a consensus on a single map,” Republican appointee and former Sen. Jack Martins told City and State. “I see our responsibility as a commission as putting aside partisan differences … We tried to, and unfortunately it was for naught.”
The state, based on the census data from last year’s count, will be losing a congressional seat, going from 27 to 26 congress members. Redistricting, or redrawing congressional boundary lines, happens after the census data is released. It’s intended to keep a population that shares enough “social and economic interests” together while electing “adequate and fair” congress members to represent the people there, said Imamura.
In reality, that is not always the case.
The main concern about district lines being redrawn is that it will deny people representation based on race or political party, aka partisan gerrymandering. “Taking a community and dividing it so that they don’t have the ability to elect representatives of their choice. That’s historically what’s been done, and that’s something that we’re concerned about at the commission,” said Imamura.
Imamura said the commission’s job is to listen to everyone and come up with a map that represents the state fairly.
“The state constitution actually didn’t require these public hearings,” said Imamura. “The state constitution, the way it’s currently framed, says that we should just draw lines without public input and then only go to the public after and we thought that was crazy.”
Imamura and the commission decided to hold a series of public, virtual hearings in order to accurately draw lines that actually reflect the people.
Imamura stressed that at this point they will be “just drafts” open to public scrutiny through another series of listening sessions and forums throughout October, before they will be reviewed and finalized by Jan. 1, 2022. The maps have to be approved by at least seven of the ten commission members.
“We need people’s input so that they accurately reflect what communities look like on the ground,” implored Imamura. “One of the great regrets I have about COVID is that normally I’d drive to these places and just walk around, but with COVID and a baby it’s much more difficult. Now more than ever we need public input. In order to protect communities, we need to know where those communities are.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w