Redistricting in New York
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|Redistricting in New York|
|Current legislative control: |
|Congressional process: |
|State legislature process: |
|State Senate: 63|
|State House: 150|
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|Redistricting • State-by-state redistricting procedures • State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census|
- 1 Background
- 2 State process
- 3 District maps
- 4 Competitiveness
- 5 Race and ethnicity
- 6 Redistricting after the 2010 census
- 7 Redistricting ballot measures
- 8 Recent news
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
Redistricting is a fiercely-contested issue, primarily due to gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district lines to favor one political party, individual or constituency over another. Two areas of contention include the following:
- Competitiveness: Political parties or incumbents sometimes draw district lines for their benefit at the expense of proportionality and fair representation. Some argue that this practice contributes to the present lack of competitive elections. Uncompetitive elections can in turn discourage participation.
- Race and ethnicity: District lines sometimes minimize the influence of minority voters by disproportionately consolidating them within single districts or splitting them across several districts. These practices are examples of "packing" and "cracking," respectively.
- See also: Redistricting
Federal law stipulates that all districts, whether congressional or state legislative, must meet two primary criteria.
- Equal population: According to All About Redistricting, federal law "requires that each district have about the same population: each federal district within a state must have about the same number of people [and] each state district within a state must have about the same number of people." Specific standards for determining whether populations are sufficiently equal vary for congressional and state legislative districts. See below for further details.
- Race and ethnicity: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 states that district lines must not dilute the voting power of racial or ethnic minority groups. This provision "applies whether the denial is intentional, or an unintended end result. Courts essentially test whether the way that districts are drawn takes decisive political power away from a cohesive minority bloc otherwise at risk for discrimination."
In most states, the legislatures are primarily responsible for both congressional and state legislative redistricting. However, reformers argue that partisan legislators are incapable of establishing fair district lines because they have a vested interest in the outcome. Instead, reformers advocate using different redistricting processes, including independent commissions or electronic methods. Opponents of these reforms argue that alternative processes are less accountable to voters, subject to partisan abuse, and perhaps unconstitutional.
In addition to the federal criteria noted above, individual states may impose additional requirements on redistricting. Common state-level redistricting criteria are listed below. Typically, these requirements are quite flexible.
- Contiguity refers to the principle that all areas within a district should be "physically adjacent." A total of 49 states require that districts of at least one state legislative chamber be contiguous. A total of 23 states require that congressional districts meet contiguity requirements.
- Compactness refers to the general principle that "the distance between all parts of a district" ought to be minimized. The United States Supreme Court has "construed compactness to indicate that residents have some sort of cultural cohesion in common." A total of 37 states "require their legislative districts to be reasonably compact." A total of 18 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.
- A community of interest is a "group of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social or economic interests." A total of 24 states require that the maintenance of communities of interest be considered in the drawing of state legislative districts. A total of 13 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.
- A total of 42 states require that state legislative district lines be drawn to account for political boundaries (e.g., the limits of counties, cities and towns). A total of 19 states require that similar considerations be made in the drawing of congressional districts.
According to Article 1, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the states and their legislatures have primary authority in determining the "times, places and manner" of congressional elections. Congress may also pass laws regulating congressional elections. Section 4 explicitly vests the authority to regulate congressional elections with the legislative branches of the states and the federal government and not with the executive or judicial branches.
|“||The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.||”|
—United States Constitution
Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution stipulates that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. There are 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Each state is allotted a portion of these seats based on the size of its population relative to the other states. Consequently, a state may gain seats in the House if its population grows, or lose seats if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders that the populations of House districts must be equal "as nearly as practicable."
The equal population requirement for congressional districts is strict. According to All About Redistricting, "any district with more or fewer people than the average (also know as the 'ideal' population), must be specifically justified by a consistent state policy. And even consistent policies that cause a 1 percent spread from largest to smallest district will likely be unconstitutional."
State legislative redistricting
The United States Constitution is silent on the issue of state legislative redistricting. In the mid-1960s, the United States Supreme Court issued a series of rulings in an effort to clarify standards for state legislative redistricting. In Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled that "the Equal Protection Clause [of the United States Constitution] demands no less than substantially equal state legislative representation for all citizens, of all places as well as of all races." According to All About Redistricting, "it has become accepted that a [redistricting] plan will be constitutionally suspect if the largest and smallest districts [within a state or jurisdiction] are more than 10 percent apart."
- See also: State-by-state redistricting procedures
In 37 states, legislatures are primarily responsible for drawing congressional district lines. Seven states have only one congressional district each, so congressional redistricting is not necessary. Four states employ independent commissions to draw the district maps. In two states, politician commissions draw congressional district lines.
State legislative district lines are primarily the province of the state legislatures themselves in 37 states. In seven states, politician commissions draw state legislative district lines. In the remaining six states, independent commissions draw the lines.
In New York, both congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by the state legislature. These lines are subject to veto by the governor. A six-member advisory commission assists in the process. The commission may recommend congressional and state legislative redistricting plans to the legislature, which may in turn "adopt, modify or ignore the commission's. proposals." The commission comprises the following members:
- The majority leader of the New York State Senate appoints one commissioner who is a legislator and one who is not, for a total of two commissioners.
- The majority leader of the New York State Assembly appoints one commissioner who is a legislator and one who is not, for a total of two commissioners.
- The minority leader of the New York State Senate appoints one commissioner who is a legislator.
- The minority leader of the New York State Assembly appoints one commissioner who is a legislator.
State law requires that state legislative districts be contiguous and compact. State legislative districts must also take into account the "historic and traditional significance of counties."
Process beginning in 2020
On March 14, 2012, the state legislature approved a constitutional amendment to establish new redistricting procedures beginning in 2020. The New York Constitution requires that two successive legislatures approve an amendment in order to qualify it for final approval by popular vote. The legislature approved the amendment a second time in 2013. On November 4, 2014, voters approved the amendment.
Beginning in 2020, congressional and state legislative redistricting will be the responsibility of a 10-member commission comprising the following members:
- Two members must be appointed by the temporary president of the New York State Senate.
- Two members must be appointed by the speaker of the New York State Assembly.
- Two members must be appointed by the minority leader of the New York State Senate.
- Two members must be appointed by the minority leader of the New York State Assembly.
- Two members must appointed by the aforementioned eight commissioners. These two appointees cannot have been enrolled in the top two major political parties in the state.
The legislature must approve the commission's plans by a simple up/down vote. The legislature must reject two separate sets of redistricting plans before it will be able to amend the commission's proposals. All districts will be required "to preserve minority rights, be equally populated, and consist of compact and contiguous territory." Further, state law will require that districts "not be drawn to discourage competition or to favor/disfavor candidates or parties."
New York comprises 27 congressional districts. The map to the right depicts New York's congressional district lines as drawn following the 2010 United States Census. The table below lists New York's current House representatives.
|New York delegation to the United States House of Representatives|
|Name||Party||Position||Assumed office||Term ends|
|Brian Higgins||District 26||2005||January 3, 2017|
|Carolyn B. Maloney||District 12||1993||January 3, 2017|
|Charles B. Rangel||District 13||1971||January 3, 2017|
|Chris Collins||District 27||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Chris Gibson||District 19||2011||January 3, 2017|
|Daniel Donovan||District 11||2015||January 3, 2017|
|Eliot Engel||District 16||1989||January 3, 2017|
|Elise Stefanik||District 21||2015||January 3, 2017|
|Grace Meng||District 6||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Gregory W. Meeks||District 5||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Hakeem Jeffries||District 8||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Jerrold Nadler||District 10||1993||January 3, 2017|
|John Katko||District 24||2015||January 3, 2017|
|José E. Serrano||District 15||1991||January 3, 2017|
|Joseph Crowley||District 14||1999||January 3, 2017|
|Katheleen M. Rice||District 4||2015||January 3, 2017|
|Lee Zeldin||District 1||2015||January 3, 2017|
|Louise Slaughter||District 25||1987||January 3, 2017|
|Nita Lowey||District 17||1989||January 3, 2017|
|Nydia Velázquez||District 7||1993||January 3, 2017|
|Paul Tonko||District 20||2009||January 3, 2017|
|Peter T. King||District 2||1993||January 3, 2017|
|Richard L. Hanna||District 22||2011||January 3, 2017|
|Sean Maloney||District 18||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Steve Israel||District 3||2013||January 3, 2017|
|Tom Reed||District 23||2010||January 3, 2017|
|Yvette D. Clarke||District 9||2007||January 3, 2017|
State legislative maps
New York comprises 63 state Senate districts and 150 state House districts. State senators and representatives are elected every two years in partisan elections. To access current and historic state legislative district maps, click here.
There are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between partisan gerrymandering and electoral competitiveness. Some critics contend that the dominant redistricting methods result in a lack of competitive elections. Jennifer Clark, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said, "The redistricting process has important consequences for voters. In some states, incumbent legislators work together to protect their own seats, which produces less competition in the political system. Voters may feel as though they do not have a meaningful alternative to the incumbent legislator. Legislators who lack competition in their districts have less incentive to adhere to their constituents’ opinions."
Some question the impact of redistricting on electoral competitiveness. In 2006, Emory University professors Alan Abramowitz, Brad Alexander and Matthew Gunning wrote, "[Some] studies have concluded that redistricting has a neutral or positive effect on competition. ... [It] is often the case that partisan redistricting has the effect of reducing the safety of incumbents, thereby making elections more competitive."
The individuals involved in redistricting must balance the desire for increased competitiveness with other principles that might conflict with that goal, such as compactness, contiguity, and maintaining communities of interest. For instance, it may at times be impossible to draw a competitive district that is both compact and preserves communities of interest.
In 2011, James Cottrill, a professor of political science at Santa Clara University, published a study of the effect of "non-legislative approaches" to redistricting on the competitiveness of congressional elections. Cottrill found that "particular types of [non-legislative approaches] encourage the appearance in congressional elections of experienced and well-financed challengers." Cottrill cautioned, however, that non-legislative approaches "contribute neither to decreased vote percentages when incumbents win elections nor to a greater probability of their defeat."
In 2014, Ballotpedia analyzed the margins of victory in all 435 contests for the United States House of Representatives. Ballotpedia found that the average margin of victory was 35.8 percent, compared to 31.8 percent in 2012. An election is deemed competitive if it was won by a margin of victory of 5 percent or less. A total of 318 elections (73 percent of all House elections) were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or more. Only 26 elections (6 percent of the total) were won by margins of victory of 5 percent or less. See the table below for further details.
Note: The data below are provided only for informational purposes. It should be noted that there are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between redistricting and competitiveness. A variety of factors at the local, state and federal levels can impact electoral competitiveness.
In New York, 19 elections for the United States House of Representatives were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or greater. The smallest margin of victory occurred in District 25, where Louise Slaughter (D) won by 0.4 percent. The largest margin of victory occurred in District 15, where jose Serrano (D) won by 87.9 percent. The average margin of victory in New York was 38.7 percent. See the table below for full details.
|Electoral margins of victory in 2014 United States House of Representatives elections, New York|
|District||Winner||Margin of victory||Total votes cast||Top opponent|
|District 1||Lee Zeldin||8.7%||176,719||Tim Bishop|
|District 2||Peter King||36.4%||146,617||Patricia M. Maher|
|District 3||Steve Israel||9.2%||171,163||Grant Lally|
|District 4||Kathleen M. Rice||5.5%||175,305||Bruce Blakeman|
|District 5||Gregory Meeks||76.1%||94,400||Allen Steinhardt|
|District 6||Grace Meng||43.2%||77,306||Blank/Void/Scattering|
|District 7||Nydia Velazquez||74.3%||68,522||Jose Luis Fernandez|
|District 8||Hakeem Jeffries||74.2%||95,113||Alan Bellone|
|District 9||Yvette Clarke||71.8%||101,606||Daniel Cavanagh|
|District 10||Jerrold Nadler||68%||113,226||Ross Brady|
|District 11||Michael Grimm||12.3%||110,999||Domenic Recchia|
|District 12||Carolyn Maloney||57.8%||117,420||Nick Di Iorio|
|District 13||Charles Rangel||63.8%||91,834||Daniel Vila Rivera|
|District 14||Joseph Crowley||64.7%||67,372||Elizabeth Perri|
|District 15||Jose Serrano||87.9%||61,268||Eduardo Ramirez|
|District 16||Eliot Engel||43.7%||138,655||Blank/Void/Scattering|
|District 17||Nita Lowey||12.3%||181,674||Chris Day|
|District 18||Sean Maloney||1.8%||186,640||Nan Hayworth|
|District 19||Chris Gibson||28.1%||210,351||Sean Eldridge|
|District 20||Paul Tonko||21.7%||211,965||Jim Fischer|
|District 21||Elise Stefanik||20.5%||181,558||Aaron Woolf|
|District 22||Richard Hanna||48.1%||175,372||Blank/Void/Scattering|
|District 23||Tom Reed||21.9%||195,874||Martha Robertson|
|District 24||John Katko||18.8%||203,417||Dan Maffei|
|District 25||Louise Slaughter||0.4%||196,516||Mark Assini|
|District 26||Brian Higgins||34.7%||173,911||Kathy Weppner|
|District 27||Chris Collins||39.9%||215,147||Jim O'Donnell|
In 2014, Ballotpedia conducted a study of competitive districts in 44 state legislative chambers between 2010 and 2012. Ballotpedia found that there were 61 fewer competitive general election contests in 2012 than in 2010. Of the 44 chambers studied, 25 experienced a net loss in the number of competitive elections. A total of 17 experienced a net increase. In total, 16.2 percent of the 3,842 legislative contests studied saw competitive general elections in 2010. In 2012, only 14.6 percent of the contests studied saw competitive general elections. An election was considered competitive if it was won by a margin of victory of 5 percent or less. An election was considered mildly competitive if it was won by a margin of victory between 5 and 10 percent. For more information regarding this report, including methodology, click here.
Note: These data are provided only for informational purposes. It should be noted that there are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between redistricting and competitiveness. A variety of factors at the local, state and federal levels can impact electoral competitiveness.
There were eight competitive elections for the New York State Senate in 2012, compared to six in 2010. There was one mildly competitive state Senate race in 2012, compared to four in 2010. This amounted to a net loss of one competitive election.
There were four competitive elections for the New York State Assembly in 2012, compared to seven in 2010. There were six mildly competitive state Assembly races in 2012, compared to nine in 2010. This amounted to a net loss of six competitive elections.
|Party||As of May 2015|
|Party||As of May 2015|
Race and ethnicity
- See also: Majority-minority districts
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates that electoral district lines cannot be drawn in such a manner as to "improperly dilute minorities' voting power."
|“||No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.||”|
—Voting Rights Act of 1965
States and other political subdivisions may create majority-minority districts in order to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A majority-minority district is a district in which minority groups comprise a majority of the district's total population. As of 2013, New York was home to nine congressional majority-minority districts.
Proponents of majority-minority districts maintain that these districts are a necessary hindrance to the practice of "cracking." Cracking occurs when a constituency is divided between several districts in order to prevent it from achieving a majority in any one district. In addition, supporters argue that the drawing of majority-minority districts has resulted in an increased number of minority representatives in state legislatures and Congress.
Critics, meanwhile, contend that the establishment of majority-minority districts results in "packing." Packing occurs when a constituency or voting group is placed within a single district, thereby minimizing its influence in other districts. Because minority groups tend to vote Democratic, critics argue that majority-minority districts ultimately present an unfair advantage to Republicans by consolidating Democratic votes into a smaller number of districts.
The tables below provide demographic information for each of New York's congressional districts as of 2013. At that time, the population of the largest congressional district, District 5, totaled 747,137, and the population of the smallest, District 12, totaled 708,992, which represented a difference of 5.4 percent.
|Demographics of New York's congressional districts (as percentages)|
|Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015|
|Demographics of New York's congressional districts|
|Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015|
Redistricting after the 2010 census
Congressional redistricting, 2010
Following the 2010 United States Census, New York lost two congressional seats. At the time of redistricting, Democrats controlled the governor's mansion and the New York State Assembly, but Republicans held a narrow majority in the New York State Senate. The legislature proved unable to pass its own congressional redistricting plan. A panel of three federal judges appointed federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann to implement a map. On March 7, 2012, Mann issued her map, which was drawn by Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School. Michael Barone and Chuck McCutcheon, writing for The Almanac of American Politics, described that map as follows:
|“||[The map] morphed the state’s 29 existing contorted districts into 27 geographically compact seats. In a past era, indignant House incumbents might have browbeaten the legislature into halting such a rearrangement, but in 2012, the court map was largely met with reluctant acceptance. The plan even-handedly eliminated retiring Democrat Hinchey’s Upstate seat and the Queens seat of Republican special election winner Bob Turner, who hadn’t expected to win reelection anyway. On March 19, the three judge federal panel approved the map with minor changes.||”|
—The Almanac of American Politics
State legislative redistricting, 2010
The advisory redistricting commission issued its state legislative district proposal on January 26, 2012. On March 11, 2012, the state legislature a approved revised version of this proposal, which was signed into law by the governor on the same day. Technical corrections to the maps were approved by the legislature on March 15, 2012, and signed into law on March 27, 2012. The maps were subject to litigation; ultimately, however, the maps were upheld.
Redistricting ballot measures
elections and campaigns
|Not on ballot|
Ballotpedia has tracked the following ballot measure(s) relating to redistricting in New York.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Redistricting New York."
- Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.
- Redistricting in New York after the 2010 census
- State-by-state redistricting procedures
- Majority-minority districts
- State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 census
- Margin of victory in state legislative elections before and after the 2010 census
- Margin of victory analysis for the 2014 congressional elections
- All About Redistricting
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "Redistricting Process"
- FairVote, "Redistricting"
- The Redistricting Game
- Republicans control the Senate; Democrats control the Assembly.
- An advisory commission is also involved in the process.
- All About Redistricting, "Why does it matter?" accessed April 8, 2015
- Indy Week, "Cracked, stacked and packed: Initial redistricting maps met with skepticism and dismay," June 29, 2011
- The Atlantic, "How the Voting Rights Act Hurts Democrats and Minorities," June 17, 2013
- Redrawing the Lines, "The Role of Section 2 - Majority Minority Districts," accessed April 6, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Where are the lines drawn?" accessed April 9, 2015
- FairVote, "Redistricting Glossary," accessed April 9, 2015
- The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, "Election Regulations," accessed April 13, 2015
- Brookings, "Redistricting and the United States Constitution," March 22, 2011
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Brennan Center for Justice, "A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting," accessed March 25, 2015
- The Constitution of the United States of America, "Article 1, Section 2," accessed March 25, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Who draws the lines?" accessed March 25, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "New York," accessed May 8, 2015
- The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, "View District Maps," accessed May 8, 2015
- The Daily Cougar, "Redistricting will affect November election," October 16, 2012
- The Journal of Politics, "Incumbency, Redistricting, and the Decline of Competition in U.S. House Elections," February 2006
- Polity, "The Effects of Non-Legislative Approaches to Redistricting on Competition in Congressional Elections," October 3, 2011
- Yale Law School, The Avalon Project, "Voting Rights Act of 1965; August 6, 1965," accessed April 6, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015
- Barone, M. & McCutcheon, C. (2013). The almanac of American politics 2014 : the senators, the representatives and the governors : their records and election results, their states and districts. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.