The Independent State Redistribution Commission submitted dueling plans to both houses of the state legislature on Monday, without avoiding a partisan deadlock, as time is running out to redraw New York’s electoral lines.
The state’s 10-member Independent Constituency Commission voted on Monday to send a pair of competing maps to draw new constituency lines to Congress, the Senate and the Assembly after the completion of each decennial census.
The commissioners, including five appointed by Democratic legislative leaders and five appointed by Republican leaders, worked together for many hours in 16 meetings to draft a single plan, but ultimately decided that a deal was impossible – giving the Democrats who hold a majority in the Senate and Assembly have an advantage in monitoring the electoral lines that will be in place for the next decade.
“I believe it was the fervent wish of every Commissioner to achieve a single map and we have spent hundreds of hours trying to reach a compromise together,” Commission President David Imamura said on Monday. “I am proud that during these meetings we were able to reach consensus on large parts of the state. “
Plan A, drawn up by the Democrats, received five votes from elected Democrats, including Commissioners Imamura, Eugène Benger, Elaine Frazier, Ivelisse Cuevas-Molina and John Flateau.
Vice President Jack Martins and Commissioners Charles Nesbitt, Ross Brady, John Conway III and Willis H. Stephens Jr. voted to submit Plan B.
“Today we have the choice between two cards that have been put forward: a clearly partisan card prepared by five members of the commission without any participation from the other side; the other was prepared independently and then negotiated bilaterally by the commission through sub-groups in accordance with a process we all agreed on, ”Martins said at Monday’s meeting. “I will vote and support the map that reflects the consensus that we have all tried to work towards and have almost reached. I encourage you all to do the same, realizing in good faith that it was our responsibility. “
Monday’s stalemate was no surprise.
After Thanksgiving, commissioners agreed on a schedule for meetings and a process for line shooters to compile a common set of cards for consideration by the legislature. Meetings and negotiations persisted, incorporating oral and written testimony from nearly 3,000 New Yorkers, as scheduled until December 22 – when the two groups of commissioners issued separate public statements revealing deep issues reaching compromise. .
Martins said the negotiated joint card was about 90% complete when Democrats presented their own completed version and ceased discussion.
The Democrats nominated have said they hope the card will prompt Republicans to come up with a rebuttal proposal and restart negotiations, for which current arguments have lapsed.
“There were a lot of things that we agreed on – I was optimistic coming out of those talks,” Imamura said. “What we didn’t agree on … that’s where things started to get tough. It got around the same issues. We were going around in circles.”
Republicans have refused to consider the plan finished which Democrats completed without them or to issue a counter-proposal.
“We took a different path, refusing to abandon the process we all agreed upon and the substantially completed consensus maps that resulted from it,” Martins, Nesbitt, Stephens, Conway and Brady said in a joint press release Monday. “Instead, we chose to complete the handful of open items and present the map we all negotiated, including the changes and items the Democrat-appointed commissioners requested.”
Democratic commissioners said their decision to complete a plan was to move the process forward in the short term and were not asked by parties or outside influences.
Commissioners agreed on much of the lines in New York City, western New York and more, but got stuck on which communities should stay together in Congressional Lines on Long Island, Staten Island and central New York and other issues with the Senate districts of Long Island, the Mid-Hudson Valley and other areas of Syracuse and Rochester.
Duel Cards will become each of the Bills and progress through both Houses like any other proposed legislation.
“We are reviewing the cards as a conference,” Democratic Senate spokesman Mike Murphy said. “Obviously, speed is important. We want this to move forward as quickly as possible. “
Legislative leaders sent a letter to the commission last month urging the cards to be completed quickly.
Murphy confirmed receipt of the two plans by the Senate on Monday afternoon.
The Assembly will consider and discuss the cards separately, as will other laws. Each plan, or bill, will be presented to each floor of the chamber for a vote and discussion.
“We will consider the proposals,” Mike Whyland, spokesperson for the Democratic Assembly conference, said in a statement.
Assembly Democrats would not answer questions about how the conference will discuss the proposed maps, the timing of the analysis of the plans and who will be involved in the chamber discussions over the new electoral lines.
The lines must be in place before the state primary scheduled for June 28, but there is no firm deadline for the legislature to make a decision.
The plan of the committee that receives the most votes is sent to the Legislative Assembly. Plan A and Plan B received five votes each, which sent them both to the Senate and to the Assembly on Monday.
The legislature must approve a plan with a two-thirds majority to send to Governor Kathy Hochul to sign the law or veto it. Without a two-thirds majority, plans are considered rejected.
If the legislature rejects both plans, the committee has 15 days to submit one or more new plans before February 28.
The deadline for the commission’s participation in the development of new plans is February 28.
For example, if the Legislature rejects both plans on February 20, the commissioners will have until February 28 to complete the task.
The state constitution is unclear on the timing or process in the event one house approves or rejects a plan while the other has yet to adopt it.
“It’s very fluid and unclear,” commission officials said Monday, adding that the courts were quickly involved in the redistribution process in other US states.
Ultimately, the legislature might be responsible for designing and approving the state’s new elective districts, with Governor Hochul having to approve any final plans.
Good government groups including the League of Women Voters, Citizens Union and Reinvent Albany sent a letter to the committee on Monday criticizing the committee for not agreeing on a set of cards.
“The IRC’s goal was to create an alternative to district maps drawn by an outgoing partisan legislature,” League of State Voters’ executive director Laura Ladd Bierman said in a statement. “The failure of the Commission to collaborate and endorse a single set of cards constitutes an abdication of the responsibilities of the Commission, disrupts the redistribution process and endangers the interests of New York State voters in fair representation. . “
Imamura, Martins and other commissioners thanked each other regardless of the stalemate and expressed pride in submitting cards to the Legislature.
“I am proud – proud to have served alongside my fellow Commissioners, Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” Imamura said.
A SUSPENDED CONGRESS HEADQUARTERS
The five Democratic-appointed commissioners and the five Republican-appointed commissioners disagreed on new district lines for nearly all of the state’s Assembly and Senate districts, and several Congressional districts .
The map of a new 22nd Congressional District in central New York City is one of the few areas where the New York Independent Redistricting Commission has appeared to reach a bipartisan agreement.
This year, New York will lose one of its 27 seats in Congress because the state’s population has grown at a slower rate than other states.
Each of New York’s new congressional districts is to be divided evenly to represent a population of 776,971 people.
The commission recommended merging Syracuse, Ithaca and Utica into a single congressional district that could force U.S. Representatives John Katko and Claudia Tenney to face off in a Republican primary.
The two groups agreed to merge large parts of the 24th Congressional District represented by Katko, R-Camillus, with parts of the 22nd district represented by Tenney, R-New Hartford; establish a new district that would cover all or part of Onondaga, Madison, Oneida, Cortland and Tompkins counties in central New York City.
Oswego County, currently divided by Katko and Tenney, would be divided into a new 24th District which would also include part of Cayuga County. All of Cayuga County is currently in Katko District.
Still, the parties had their differences: Democrats would omit the towns of Fabius and Pompey and place them in a new part of the 19th District represented by US Representative Antonio Delgado, a Democrat from Dutchess County.
In the Republican map of the new district, Tenney’s hometown of New Hartford is omitted from the combined district. Instead, New Hartford would be merged into the 19th District of Delgado, setting up a possible election between Tenney and Delgado.
In the past, the state legislature has consolidated all the cards of the Assembly, Senate, and Congress when voting on new district lines.
This is the first time that New York has allowed a bipartisan commission to draw new district maps. Voters established a 10-member commission with equal numbers in a 2014 state ballot referendum, in a bid to remove politics from the process.
To view the most recent versions of submitted maps and previous drafts, visit nyirc.gov/plans
Tribune News Service contributed to this report.