Redistricting in New York

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Note: Redistricting takes place every ten years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in New York
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General information
Partisan control:  Alaska
Process:  Legislative Authority
Deadline:  Before 2012 Election
Total seats
Congress:  27
State Senate:  63 (Legislature increased from 62)
State House:  150
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See also
Redistricting on Policypedia
State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census
State-by-state redistricting procedures

Contents

This page is about redistricting in New York. New York State gives their Legislature the authority to draw the boundaries. There is a separate redistricting commission, but it is only advisory in its role.

New York lost two seats from the reapportionment after the 2010 census, taking it from 29 to 27 seats. The state's growth rate was at 2.19%, well below the national rate of 9.7%.[1] According to early data, the state had approximately 163,000 fewer people than estimated by the Census Bureau on July 1, 2009.[2]

The 27 new districts averaged 719,298 residents, while the 29 seats averaged 655,344 residents.[3]

According to a report in the Washington Post, New York was one of the top 10 states to watch in the redistricting process. The reporters ranked New York number 6 on the list. Florida was given the distinction as the number 1 state to watch.[4]

Process

The New York Legislature is responsible for redistricting. While there is a commission on redistricting, it only acts in an advisory role. The final deal must meet with approval from the Department of Justice.[5]

Advisory Commission

There is a six person advisory commission on redistricting in New York. Known as the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), it was established by Chapter 45 of the New York State laws of 1978.[6] Members are selected as follows:

  • One Legislator selected by Assembly Majority Leader
  • One Legislator selected by Senate Majority Leader
  • One Citizen Member selected by the Assembly Majority Leader
  • One Citizen Member selected by the Senate Majority Leader.
  • One Member selected by Senate Minority Leader.
  • One Member selected by Assembly Minority Leader[7].

The 2011-12 state budget included $1.5 million designated for LATFOR.[8]

Leadership

2011

The six members of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment were:

New York State Senate

New York State Assembly

Legal counsel

In July 2011, the Senate and Assembly majorities hired law firms to serve as legal counsel during the redistricting process. The GOP-controlled Senate hired Jones Day with a $3 million contract that runs through March 31, 2014. The Democratic-controlled Assembly hired Graubard Miller and lawyer C. Daniel Chill with a $1.55 million that runs through December 31, 2014.[9]

It was reported on September 29, 2011, that Assembly Democrats hired American University Professor Allan Lichtman to ensure new districts complied with federal laws and requirements. His contract, which ends in 2014, is worth $143,000, which includes $3,000 in travel expenses and $40,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.[10]

Criticism

At a LATFOR meeting held September 20, 2011, City Councilwoman Letitia James and Brooklyn NAACP vice president Anita Burson criticized the panel for not having any African-American members. Burson suggested LATFOR form its own advisory committee that included black members.[11]

Census results

On March 23, 2011, the Census Bureau shipped New York's local census data to the governor and legislative leaders. This data guided redistricting for state and local offices. The data is publicly available for downloading.[12]

The new ideal district population was approximately 719,298 for Congress and 129,274 for the state Assembly. If the state Senate remained at 62 seats, each district would have approximately 313,242 residents. However, it was possible that the Senate could add or remove a seat during redistricting.[13]

City/County population changes

These tables show the change in population in the five largest cities and counties in New York from 2000-2010.[14]

Top Five most populous cities
City 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
New York 8,008,278 8,175,133 2.1%
Buffalo 292,648 261,310 -10.7%
Rochester 219,773 210,565 -4.2%
Yonkers 196,086 195,976 -0.1%
Syracuse 147,306 145,170 -1.5%
Top Five most populous counties
County 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Kings 2,465,326 2,504,700 1.6%
Queens 2,229,379 2,230,722 0.1%
New York 1,537,195 1,585,873 3.2%
Suffolk 1,419,369 1,493,350 5.2%
Bronx 1,332,650 1,385,108 3.9%

Population counts challenged

Taken aback by population losses in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on March 27 that he planned to challenge the numbers under the Census Bureau's "Count Question Resolution." He stated, “We believe that errors have occurred in putting together the Census results for Brooklyn and Queens. It seem evident to us that something incongruous happened in the Census count in these two boroughs.”[15]

Teaming up with Bloomberg was state Sen. Michael Gianaris, whose district in Queens reportedly lost over 1,000 residents since 2000. He called the numbers absurd, and said he would be writing federal officials to request an immediate investigation. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer referred to the counts as "baffling," stating, “If you believe them on their face, New York City added only a little more than 160,000 new residents in the last decade—a decade that any New Yorker from any part of the city could tell you saw tremendous growth in both Manhattan and the outer boroughs.”[16]

Following Bloomberg's announcement, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said he was considering contesting his city's official count. According to Census data, Buffalo's population decreased by 31,338 or 10.7% Brown noted an undercount of immigrants as one of the possible problems.[17]

Congressional Maps

With New York slated to lose two seats in 2012, the question was who would be most likely to lose their seats. Many believed that this would be done by consolidating two adjoining Republican districts into one and doing the same with two Democratic districts.

Queens College sociologist Andrew Beveridge predicted it would fall on Democrats Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter, who represented districts 27 and 28. Both districts had populations under 100,000.[1]

Freshman Congressman Tom Reed, who represented the 29th District, said that, despite the fact he was one of only two Republican Congressmen from a state controlled by Democrats, his district might not be targeted. He reasoned that wins in the 2010 elections gave the Republicans a voice in the redistricting process again.[18]

Figure 1: This map shows the New York Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Former New York Rep. Tom Reynolds (R), who took part in redistricting during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, predicted one of the seats would be lost in the upstate West, west of Syracuse. He said the other would depend on population loss in New York City verses Eastern New York.[19]

Reports in early February 2011, indicated that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D) Long Island district could be the first to go. It was expected that, if McCarthy’s district was in fact removed, that would be balanced by cutting the district from an upstate Republican.[20] At least one congressman, Democrat Maurice Hinchey, had said he would not seek re-election.[21]

Role of lobbyists

With the state poised to lose two seats, several members of New York's congressional delegation started hiring lobbyists to try to protect their interests. Rep. Brian Higgins (D) employed the firm of Patricia Lynch and Associates,[22], while Rep. Joseph Crowley (D) hired Brian Meara. Carolyn McCarthy (D) and Nita Lowey (D) were also said to be considering hiring lobbyists. Former Mayor Ed Koch, who was working for nonpartisan redistricting, called such maneuvers "an outrage."[23]

Top Ten Ranking

According to a report in the Washington Post political blog "The Fix," New York was home one of the top ten redistricting battles in the nation, ranking sixth on the list. Illinois was ranked first.[24]

When will maps be released?

In January 2012, Assemblyman John McEneny (D) said the congressional plan probably would not be seen by the public until early March 2012.[25]

On February 20, 2012, McEneny said Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans had both drawn up maps but not yet met to compare them. "We're at a point where each sides have at least a draft map, and the leadership will have to get together and decide whether we can merge the two maps. If we can merge the two maps, it could be ready to be voted on next week," he stated.[26]

However, that never came to pass. With a special master appointed, Assembly and Senate leaders admitted on March 11, 2012, that they failed to reach an agreement.

"Regarding federal lines, we have been working non-stop and tried very hard but just couldn't come to an agreement with the various parties," said Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D).[27]

Legislative maps

The six-member joint legislative task force in charge of redistricting held its first meeting on July 6, 2011. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) reiterated that he would veto any plan that is not drawn by an independent commission.[28]

The joint panel held 12 public hearings starting July 19, 2011 and concluding October 5, 2011.[29] The dates were:[30]

  • July 19: Syracuse
  • July 20: Rochester
  • August 4: Albany
  • August 10: Westchester
  • August 17: Binghamton
  • August 18: Buffalo

  • September 7: Queens
  • September 8: Bronx
  • September 20: Kings
  • September 21: Manhattan
  • September 22: Richmond
  • October 5: Long Island

Possible 63rd Senate seat

In mid-September 2011, it was reported that Senate Republicans were considering adding another seat to the then 62 member chamber. The new seat, which would most likely be located in the Albany area, was an attempt to hold their majority. Additionally, making the total seats an odd number would ensure there would always be a majority, avoiding situations where a tied number of seats could potentially shut down the chamber as it did in 2009.[31]

In response, Senate Democratic Conference Spokesman Mike Murphy issued a statement calling the move unconstitutional. "What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created. We are witnessing the depths that the Republicans will go to hold onto power. They are playing a dangerous game with the state constitution and the redistricting process. Unfortunately, the Senate GOP has made it clear that they care more about protecting their partisan interests than the people of New York State," he stated.[32]

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) announced on January 3, 2012 that there was a "good chance" the redistricting committee would add a 63rd seat in the Senate. The 62nd seat was added after the 2000 census. Adding an additional seat would eliminate the possibility of a tie in the chamber, which happened in 2009.

Democrats were critical of the proposal, with spokesman Mike Murphy stating, "What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created."[33] The legality, however, remains unclear and would most likely end up in court. The state constitution set the number of Senate seats at 50 in 1894, allowing districts only to be added based on a complex formula of county versus state growth. The court has since interpreted that in two different ways over the years.

Sen. Mike Gianaris (D) called the move by Republicans "desperate," stating, “The number of senators is not a matter of discretion. It’s set with a mathematical formula in the constitution, no matter how you interpret that formula, the number this year comes out 62.”[34]

On January 10, 2012, Republicans confirmed they planned to add the seat, something Sen. Martin Dilan (D) said was "done in the dark of night." Republicans based their justification for the seat on a constitutional analysis by Michael Carvin, a lawyer hired by Republicans for LATFOR who was paid $3 million. They said the 63rd seat was required when calculating the census figures, requirements of the constitution and voter protection laws.

Democrats argued that it did not make sense to grow the state Senate while slow population growth required New York to lose two of its congressional seats.[35]

Groups propose maps

During the first week of October 2011, a coalition of groups, including the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and LatinoJustice submitted state House and Senate district maps. The maps created more minority-majority districts.[36]

LATFOR releases maps

After a number of delays, LATFOR released proposed Senate and Assembly maps on January 26, 2012. While Gov. Cuomo had long stated he would veto any lines not drawn by an independent process, just prior to the release of the maps he was unclear about his course of action after the plans were released, stating, “I want to let the process play out. A lot of people have a lot of ideas. Some of the good government groups have ideas. Let’s see how it plays out. My point all along has been, I want a better product, and I want a better process. And I don’t know where it ends.”[37] After the lines were unveiled, however, a spokesman for the governor said, “At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the governor. We need a better process and product.”[38]

LATFOR also released a schedule of nine public hearings. Those dates were:[39]

  • January 30
  • January 31
  • February 1
  • February 2
  • February 7

  • February 9
  • February 14
  • February 15
  • February 16

The Senate plan included the addition of a 63rd seat in a Republican dominated area upstate which would result in the division of Albany, a Democratic stronghold, for the first time. Additionally, the map merged four Senate districts based in Queens into two, all four of which were represented by Democrats, including Michael Gianaris, who was Chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

The Assembly's plan created three Asian-majority districts and merged two upstate Republican districts into one.[40]

At the February 7, 2012 meeting of LATFOR Sen. Michael Gianaris (D) called the Senate Republican's plan blatant gerrymandering to protect their power and said it brought "shame" to the state. Republicans responded, calling Gianaris and the other Democrats hypocrites for not pushing for independent redistricting while they were in power from 2008-2010. Attendees mostly criticized the plan for dividing neighborhoods.[41]

Gov. Cuomo said on February 17, 2012, that he would consider withholding his veto if three criteria were met - redraw the lines in a more fair manner than the first draft, work to pass a constitutional amendment that would put an independent system in place for the next redistricting, and rework the current redistricting law in case the amendment fails. Aides to the governor, however, said he was still fully prepared to veto the new districts.[42] Twenty-two Senate Democrats signed a letter to Cuomo, ensuring him that they would be able to block a potential veto override.[43]

Maps passed

Late on March 11, 2012, leaders of LATFOR filed a 253-page bill detailing new state Senate and Assembly districts.[44] The actual maps, however, were not released until nearly 24 hours later. They closely resembled the maps originally proposed back in January which Cuomo said were unacceptable.

Along with this, leaders offered a constitutional amendment that would set up a new bipartisan commission on redistricting following the next census in 2020.[45]

When the new districts came to a vote in the Senate, the Republican majority passed it easily - after Democrats walked out in protest. Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson said he had reached an agreement with Republicans to extend the debate to four hours but when that was cut off after only two, they left the chamber.[46]

On March 15, 2012, the legislature approved the constitutional amendment. In order to become law, it must be passed by the next separately elected legislature and also approved by voters in a referendum.[47] With that approved, Cuomo stated, "It’s over once and for all"[48] and signed the maps into law.[49]

Public hearings

LATFOR, the legislative task force responsible for redistricting, held its first public meeting the July 19, 2011 in Syracuse. Although the state witnessed a major push to establish an independent redistricting commission, lawmakers -- mostly Republicans -- said there was not enough time to establish a new protocol and complete the process before primaries. Currently, districts can vary by as much as 10 percent. Like with public meetings about redistricting held across the country, the mood in Syracuse was the same -- don’t split communities of interest.[50]

Citizen Activism

NY Uprising Pledge

Prior to the November 2010 elections, Koch asked state legislators to take a pledge in support of nonpartisan redistricting for the next legislative session. A majority of candidates for general assembly and Senate signed the pledge. In January 2011, Koch stated that he believed legislators who signed would live up to their word.[51]

A full list of who did and did not sign the pledge can be found on NY Uprising. The organization referred to those who signed as "Heroes of Reform," and those who did not as "Enemies of Reform."[52] "Heroes of Reform" asked New Yorkers to sign a petition at Pass the Pledge telling Senate leaders to keep their pledge to reform government and make it the first priority of the 2011 legislative session.[53]

John Sampson (D), upon being elected Senate Minority Leader for the 2011 session, stated, "We need to pass the Governor's ethics package, which we will soon receive. We need to pass budget reform. We need to pass independent redistricting. 53 of us signed Mayor Koch's pledge. I have a very simple message for all of us here in Albany and in our districts. Keep your Promise: Pass the Pledge."[54]

On February 28, 2011, Koch said he would begin recording robo calls that aimed at the constituents of legislators who he felt had reneged on the pledge. He said, "My hope is that ultimately everybody gets behind this, out of integrity or shame. Either one’s O.K."[55] The calls were paid for by NY Uprising.

As of March 1, 2011, out of the 54 senators who signed the pledge, 27 were supporting a bill for independent redistricting, while 73 of the 84 Assembly members who signed were supporting the bill.[56]


Ed Koch recording a robo call about the NY Uprising Pledge

On April 5, 2011, Koch began sending letters to lawmakers regarding the pledge. For those who signed on as a co-sponsor of reform legislation, he sent thanks and assurance that they would not be counted as "Enemies of Reform." For those who did not sign on to reform legislation, he said he would be announcing them as an "Enemy of Reform" after April 8, 2011; and that robo-calls regarding the issue would be placed in their district.[57] Koch kept to his word and released a list of 42 legislators who reneged on their pledges, which included 31 Senators and 11 Assembly members.[58]

A few days after announcing the letters, Koch called the actions of the Senate Republicans who had reneged on their pledges as "dishonorable," specifically calling out Majority Leader Skelos, saying, "He is betraying his own personal honor. It is a dishonorable act."[59]

The issue of reform had by then begun to spark rallies to hold officials accountable for their pledges. On March 26, 2011, a rally led by the New Roosevelt Institute was held outside of the office of state Senator Jack Martins. While he was a candidate, Martins signed the NY Uprising pledge and was named a "Hero of Reform," but he did not vote for Gov. Cuomo's Redistricting Reform Act. Koch said of the move,

“Today’s event is about holding politicians accountable to the pledges they took and making sure they know we are still paying attention. The people of the State of New York expect their legislators to be honorable and to keep their word. For anyone who signed the Uprising Pledge, that means enacting meaningful redistricting reform that will impact elections next year.”[60]

Martins was not the only target of activists concerned with the NY Uprising Pledge. Putnam County Republican Senator Greg Ball was the subject of a May 1, 2011 rally. Ball supported the pledge in the fall of 2012, when he was a candidate. Since then, he backed Republican bills concerning redistricting reform, but resisted Cuomo's plan, which he said would give Democrats too much control. That move put him on Ed Koch's "Enemies of Reform" list and brought him to the attention of the Dems who put together the May rally. Ball was skeptical of the event, describing it as a, "highly partisan Democratic pep rally."[61]

As lawmakers reneged on election pledges to support redistricting reform, it became a matter of securing the signatures to bypass normal legislative protocol and bring the reform bills to the floor. Needing 38 members and having 54 who had, at one point, pledged their support, each of four reform bills still died, with each getting only around two dozen signatures. No Republicans signed to push any of the bills to the floor.[62] GOP leaders said they were against the particular bills, not against reform, and were in conversation with Governor Cuomo on the matter.

ReShapeNY

ReShapeNY was a coalition of 30 good-government groups working for redistricting reform. The campaign, headed by Citizens United, stated their top priority as:

"Creation of a new citizens redistricting commission that is independent, representative, politically balanced, and fairly chosen to draw congressional and legislative district lines that do not favor or oppose any incumbent or political party and uses even-handed and sensible redistricting guidelines and criteria that provide for fair and effective representation of all New Yorkers, including racial and language minority groups, and other communities of interest."[63]

The campaign was announced through simultaneous press conferences in Albany and New York City on March 14, 2011. The full press release is available here. Co-chairs include Ed Koch and former New York state Attorney General Bob Abrams,[64], while other groups involved included the League of Women Voters, The New York Public Interest Research Group, and Common Cause/NY. In a statement Koch said, “I am pleased to be joining with ReShapeNY which will help hold these legislators accountable for the election-year promises they made to their constituents. Together we will work to ensure that redistricting is fair and independent because the future of our state depends on it. I believe we are on the cusp of victory."[65]

Common Cause maps

Common Cause New York released proposed maps for what they called "fair, non-politicized" congressional and state legislative district on December 19, 2011. The congressional plan created at least four districts where incumbents would have to potentially face once another. The plan spread the current 23rd and 24th Districts among four other potential districts, setting up a potential face off between incumbent Republicans Richard Hanna and Ann Marie Buerkle. The new 19th District would set up a race between incumbents Maurice Hinchey (D) and Chris Gibson (R).[66] Other matchups included Nita Lowey (D) and Nan Hayworth (R), as well as Eliot Engel (D) and Jose E. Serrano (D).[67]

Push for nonpartisan redistricting

New York saw a large push for a nonpartisan redistricting commission, much like those already in place in a number of other states. Leading the movement was former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, along with his reform group New York Uprising, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.[68] Koch's plan would exclude elected or appointed officials, registered lobbyists, political party officers, and relatives of any of those groups from the process.[69] Cuomo said that he would veto any redistricting plan that is partisan.[70]

As the 2011 session drew to a close, reform advocates were morose. New Roosevelt Institution head Bill Samuels said he felt any hope of an independent commission in 2012 was, "99% dead."[71][72]

SB 660

On January 5, 2011, State Senators David Valesky (D) and Michael Gianaris (D) introduced SB 660, which would create a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw the boundaries for Congressional and state legislative districts. Valesky stated, "This piece of legislation will benefit all New Yorkers by eliminating partisan influence designed to preserve majorities and incumbents, and creating districts that are cohesive geographically and culturally."[73]

The new commission would replace the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment. Commission members could not be in public office, or have held such office within the past two years, could not be a lobbyist, in a position within a political party, or be related to an elected or public official. The commission would hold public hearings throughout the state on the proposed districts.

The bill was last acted on January 5, 2011 when it was referred to the Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

SB 2543/AB 3432

On January 25, 2011, Sen. Gianaris introduced SB 2543 to create a independent apportionment commission. The same bill was introduced as AB 3432 by Hakeem Jeffries. Ed Koch set a deadline of March 1, 2011 for all of the 138 legislators who signed the New York Uprising pledge to support the creation of an independent commission to co-sponsor the bill.

In a press release Koch stated, "I believe most will remain Heroes and stay true to their word. A few won't. For them, I said I'd visit their districts crying 'liar, liar, pants on fire,' and I hope they don't think I'm not up to the task."[74] As of January 31, 2011 40 assembly members had signed on to cosponsor the bill, along with 10 senators.

Both bills were last acted on January 25, 2011 when the Senate bill was referred to the Investigations and Government Operations Committee and the Assembly bill to the Governmental Operations Committee.

On February 14, 2011, Senate Democrats held a press conference to unveil an ethics package composed of six different bills, including SB 2543. Sen. Gianaris stated, "What have we learned recently was that 240,000 more people have voted for Democrats in this past election, and yet the make up of the Senate is 32 Republicans and 30 Democrats. It shows that the Republicans do not control the Senate because more people voted for Republican candidates."[75]

Redistricting Reform Act of 2011

Gov. Cuomo unveiled his own bill for redistricting reform on February 17, 2011.[76] The plan, known as the Redistricting Reform Act of 2011, would establish a permanent Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts. It was introduced into the Assembly by Speaker Sheldon Silver as A5388 and is known as S3419 in the Senate.[77]

In a press release Governor Cuomo stated, "Redistricting in New York is a system that has prioritized incumbency and partisan interests over democratic representation. This process needs to be about the people and not the politics. To help restore faith in our State government, we need to reform the system. This bill ensures greater independence, transparency, and a commitment to fair representation and equality."[78] By mid-May 2011, though, press were calling him out for falling inexplicably silent on backing his own bill, suggesting his make better use of his appearances through the state to urge voters to pressure their legislative representatives on the matter.[79]

The process of creating the commission would begin with the executive and legislative branches nominating a bipartisan pool of qualified candidates. From that pool, legislative leaders would select the members of the commission, being sure to reflect the state's geographic, racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. In order to serve on the commission, members must be four years removed from serving in the legislature or Congress, being a legislative or executive chamber employee, political party official, or registered lobbyist.

The Commission would hold a series of public hearings, with extensive information about plans and related data available online. Following the hearings, the Legislature would vote on the Commission's plan without amendments. If rejected, the Commission would submit an amended plan and the Legislature would vote once again with no amendments. If rejected a third time, the Commission would submit another amended plan, but it would be subject to amendment by the Legislature.

The Commission would have to meet specific requirements when drawing districts, including making them "nearly equal in population as practicable," contiguous, respectful to the rights of "minority voters to participate in the political process, and to elect the candidates of their choice, and not intentionally "favor or oppose any political party, any incumbent, or any previous or presumed candidate for office."[78]

Reactions

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson (D) pledged his support for the bill, calling for its immediate passage when the legislature returned on February 28, 2011. He stated, "Governor Cuomo has introduced legislation that keeps his commitment to reform, and I am calling on the Senate to do the same by immediately passing his legislation when we return to Albany."[80]


NYS Senator David Carlucci on independent redistricting

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R), who signed the NY Uprising pledge for redistricting reform, issued a statement saying:

"The issue of redistricting reform is an important one and I have said repeatedly that we will act on reform legislation. A number of proposals have been advanced and we have to take a close look at what makes the most sense to ensure a fair, open and truly nonpartisan process." However, he went on to say that it should not be the top priority, "our focus right now must be on getting a fiscally responsible budget enacted by April 1st, which is just 43 days away.[81]

Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver (D), who did not sign the pledge, said, "We are reviewing the governor's program bill and remain committed to working with governor and our colleagues in the Senate to reform redistricting in time for the upcoming redistricting process."[82]

Former Mayor Koch stated, "I am pleased that Governor Cuomo is upholding his promise to institute comprehensive redistricting reform, and I expect every lawmaker who signed the NY Uprising pledge to do the same. This legislation would replace the current 'incumbent protection program' and partisan gerrymandering with a system based on independence, sound criteria, and greater citizen involvement. I urge the Legislature to move quickly and pass this long overdue reform."[78]


NYS Assemblyman Steve Katz on independent redistricting

Sen. Diane Savino, a member of the independent Democratic caucus said, "We would look like a bunch of idiots if we didn't do it. It's one of the things I found quite frustrating in the Democratic conference. We always campaigned on this, but when we were in the majority we didn't do it."[83]

Partisan fighting

The Senate bill moved to the Rules Committee, chaired by Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos. On February 24, 2011, Deputy Minority Leader Neil Breslin attempted to force the bill out of committee with over two dozen "buck slips," which add a Senator as a sponsor to the bill. The Republican majority rejected all 25 buck slips, stating that their focus was currently on the budget.[84]

Koch held a press conference on March 1, 2011 to announce that Skelos said he would not support the bill because he believed that such changes would require amending the state Constitution.[85]


Former Mayor Koch's March 1 press conference on redistricting.

Following Koch's conference, Skelos released a statement saying, "We are still reviewing constitutional concerns that we have with the bill submitted by the governor. It is our intention to pursue a redistricting reform measure that will meet the NY Uprising pledge."[56]

On March 7, 2011, Senate Democrats petitioned for a public hearing of the bill.[86] Using an often overlooked Senate rule that a Republican spokesman referred to as "political theater,"[87], Democrats submitted 11 signatures from members of the Rules Committee for a hearing. According to the rule, one-third of the members of any committee can petition for a hearing, but the majority also has an opportunity to reject it if they all vote against it,[88] which is exactly what the Republican majority on the committee did.[89]

Following Republican claims that Cuomo's bill was unconstitutional, ReShapeNY released a legal memo from the international law firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP on April 6, 2011 arguing there was no separation-of-powers issue.[90] The task force in Cuomo's bill would recommend maps and reforms, but would not actually enact them. This power would still lie with Legislature, and as such they would not delegate their power to another branch of government.[91]

Constitutional amendment

On March 15, 2011, the state Senate passed SB 3331, which made the first step toward a Constitutional amendment creating an independent, nonpartisan apportionment commission.

Republican state Sen. Greg Ball pushed for the amendment, stating, “Demographics and geography should decide district lines, not politics. The only real way to establish constitutional standards is by amending the Constitution, the way our Founders suggested, and make these changes permanent and constitutionally sound.” By 35 votes, the minimum number that would have allowed the bill to move forward, the full Senate passed it.[92]

The proposed amendment would create a five member nonpartisan commission to redraw the lines. Four would be appointed by the majority and minority officers of the legislature, with the fifth selected by the appointed four.[93]

A Constitutional change would require the approval of two consecutively elected legislatures and thus would take years to implement. If approved, it would not be in effect until redistricting following the 2020 census.[94]

While Republicans claimed that the bill satisfied the NY Uprising pledge they signed, Ed Koch clearly stated that, since it didn't apply to the current redistricting cycle, the pledge had not been met. In a letter to Republican Senators on March 14, 2011, Koch said, "I hope we can work together on enacting the kind of legislation you joined me in supporting last year: nonpartisan, independent redistricting in time for the 2012 elections. New York can't wait another 10 years for improved government."[65]

In exchange for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) approval on 2012 maps, the Legislature agreed to approve a constitutional amendment to initiate independent redistricting. If they fail to approve the amendment by the end of January 2013, a law will automatically create such a commission to draw the maps in 2022. Additionally, if lawmakers in either chamber fail to meet the deadline, the governor assumes commission appointments in that chamber. If legislators do approve the amendment, it will be on the ballot in 2014.[95]

Bloomberg report

In mid-December 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a report arguing that nonpartisan redistricting would increase the competitiveness of elections, pointing to other states as proof. Bloomberg stated, “The current system for drawing districts protects incumbents, promotes ideological extremism, and reduces voter choice. Gerrymandering is part of the reason why compromise and bi-partisanship are so rare these days."[96]

Senate hearing


December 14, 2010 state Senate hearing on redistricting reform.

On December 14, 2010, the state Senate held a hearing on redistricting reform, with many pushing for an independent commission. One of those was State Senator-elect David Carlucci, a Democrat who was soon to represent District 38. He stated, "The most sacred principal of American democracy is that fair elections are supposed to allow the voters to choose their representatives, but New Yorkers have long been denied true choice because elected officials have historically been able to draw district lines to choose their voters."[97]

The hearing focused on 11 issues:

  • Population Equality
  • Contiguous Territory
  • Fair Representation of Minority Groups
  • State Constitutional Border Requirements
  • Compactness
  • Communities of Interest
  • Existing districts
  • Size of the State Senate
  • Public Access, Transparency, Outreach and Hearings
  • Prisoner Census Count Law
  • Redistricting Reform
  • Demographic Trends in New York

Quinnipiac Poll

A Quinnipiac poll released on August 11, 2011 revealed that 50 percent of those questioned believed redistricting should be completed by an independent commission. Only 13 percent believed the legislature itself should have that responsibility, while 26 percent said an independent entity that worked with the legislature would be acceptable. According to SUNY professor Bruce Gyory, there were only 50 to 70 competitive seats in the New York State Assembly.[98]

Opponents

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer came out against the plan, saying it would be unfair to begin the process in New York if it did not happen in other states at the same time.[99]

County level

Broome

In mid-February 2011, Democratic county legislator Joseph Merrill introduced legislation that would create an independent redistricting commission to redraw the districts of Broome County. He explained, "Forming an independent redistricting committee is the only way to form fair and equal legislative boundaries that the people of Broome County deserve," The commission would be made up of elected officials, members of the public and good government organizations. They would hold public hearings, create a plan and submit it to the legislature.[100] The proposed legislation was expected to be taken up in March.

Monroe

Community leaders in Monroe County pushed for a nonpartisan redistricting process at the county level.[101] All of Monroe's 29 County Legislature seats were on the ballot in November 20, 2011, making them among the first to have to deal with redistricting.[102] The legislature voted down the creation of an independent panel.[103]

Nassau

Nassau County, home of 19 legislative seats, set the tone early when Republicans said they were following the law and Democrats said they were due for criminal charges.[104] At a mid-May 2011, hearing, a Hempstead resident roared, "What do we have in common with Garden City? We get arrested if we go there!" Hempstead Village's Mayor was equally worked up, yelling that, "We’re not going to stand for you ramming this down our throats."

Ultimately, Democrats filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court seeking to block the vote, scheduled for May 16, 2011, on the grounds that would violate the county charter. Majority Republicans shrugged it off, branding it as "whining and crying." In that, they differed from the court; on May 13, 2011, Justice Steven M. Jaeger issued an injunction, blocking the vote from happening before the next hearing, set for the 26th of May.[105]

During a special session on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, Democrats continued to take issue with amendments added by Republicans and maintained that taking a vote before holding at least one more public hearing was premature.[106] One GOP member, Denise Ford, did cross the aisle to vote with seven Dems;[107] the final vote came out 10-8 to pass the map, although the court hearing remained.[108]

Suffolk

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced that they were the first county in the state to implement nonpartisan reapportionment of legislative districts. He stated, “Through this process, the time has finally arrived for voters to pick their elected officials; not the other way around. Over the past 200 years, reapportionment has been used as a powerful tool to maintain incumbency and disenfranchise opposition. This measure helps takes the politics out of that process for good.”[109]

CD 26 Special Election

In February 2011, Republican Chris Lee admitted he had sought sexual relations with a woman he found on Craislist and that he had sent her inappropriate photographs; the same day that the scandal broke, Lee resigned. That triggered a special election, scheduled for May 24, 2011, for his seat in upstate New York; it was not entirely free of the drama surrounding redistricting.

Republican Assemblywomen Jane Corwin got surprisingly little help from members of the state's GOP Congressional delegation, in particular from those whose districts abutted NY-26. One take on that was that a Corwin victory could be a blow for those Congressmen. Of the two seats New York had to give up, one was highly likely to come from the upstate area.[110] Corwin, however, had strong ties to the Assembly and Congressmen perceived that, should she win, her loyalty would fall to the legislature more than to a regional block on Congressmen. In short, her seat would be safe, upping the chance that any other upstate House member could lose his turf.[111]

When, Democrat Kathy Hochul won, the matter ceased importance.[112] Her fellow party members were hopeful that allies in Albany would work to save her newly won seat.[113] A possible consolation for the GOP lay in the difficulty Democrats faced in preserving a seat for the most junior member of their delegation without giving up one elsewhere.[114]

A regional squabble lay on the horizon. Hochul's victory was a shot in the arm for downstate Democratic interests, who hoped her lack of seniority would make her seat vulnerable, thus sparing them the loss of a seat in their own turf.[115]

Legal Issues

Prison-based redistricting

A number of Senate Republicans filed suit on April 4, 2011 against the Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment and the state Department of Correctional Services for plans to count prisoners at their previous residence. Calling the law unconstitutional, the suit said the U.S. Census does not allow for prisoners to be counted in such a manner. Those filing the suit included Senators Stephen Saland, Joseph Griffo, and Thomas O'Mara, all of whom had prisons in their districts.[116]

The case brief stated:

[The law] exacerbates vote dilution of certain communities and enhances the voting power of other communities by the fictitious movement of a phantom population of almost 58,000 non-voting prisoners into residents already occupied by others, and from upstate Republicans districts to downstate New York City Democratic districts which constitutes political gerrymandering.[117]

Read the full complaint.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who sponsored the original legislation, called the suit baseless, stating, “The constitutional concerns raised in the lawsuit are unfounded and are simply designed to mask a naked attempt to maintain political power.”[118] State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was also an original sponsor of the legislation when he was serving in the state Senate.

Additionally, Common Cause/NY[119], Demos, and the Prison Policy Initiative all expressed objections to the lawsuit. Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos, called for the suit to be dismissed, stating “The miscount of incarcerated individuals called for in the lawsuit violates the fundamental one-person, one vote principle of our democracy and contradicts the New York Constitution, which clearly states that a prison is not a residence. The plaintiffs here are wrong on the facts and wrong on the law."[120]

The New York State Senate identified the practice of prison-based gerrymandering for the 2011-2012 session. In short, it can be an issue because the numbers of incarcerated people can increase population counts, which in turn impacts boundaries. It can also be a matter of how much funding from the state and federal government districts received. Yet, as inmates do not have voting rights in New York, those individuals become sources of funding and power without actually being voters to be courted[121].

Despite the U.S. Census Bureau using prison population when making its counts, the practice is illegal under New York State law. Article II, Section 4 of the New York Constitution states that gerrymandering in the prisons is unlawful because, "no person shall he deemed to have gained or lost a residence...while confined in any public prison.”[122]. Also, Section 5-104 of the New York State election laws make it illegal for prison populations to be used for redistricting, using the same language as the Constitutional law[122].

Assemblyman Kenneth Blankenbush (R), in arguing against the law, explained, "They're residing in the prisons. That's where they're using our water, our sewer, our electric. My opinion is that this is a political ploy for downstate to again beef up the numbers downstate."[123] Democrats said that the renewed interest by the GOP is just another distraction by Republicans to avoid redistricting reform.

Sen. Michael Nozzolio (R) decried the new law saying, "It was an unconstitutional power grab railroaded through state government last year at the backdoor of a budget bill." He said changing the law in such a manner requires changing the Constitution.[124]

In March 2011, the Federal Bureau of Prisons denied Maryland's request for prior residence information on prisoners, citing privacy protections. Despite the state's new law, this forces Maryland to count the prisoners in the district with the prison. To that end, New York may be denied approval as well.[125]

A coalition of activist group entered the fray on May 17, 2011, when they filed a motion asking the New York Supreme Court to intervene and protect the law ordering that inmates be counted at their last known addresses rather then in their prisons.[126] The full press release from the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund is available here.

Assembly Speaker Silver's office displayed confidence is responding to the motion, telling media, "We believe the statute is constitutional and will be upheld."[127]

Once filed, the suit gained momentum; on May 27, 2011, a trio of activist groups requested the court's permission to join the case on the defendants' side.[128] In part, the petition submitted by the NAACP New York State Conference, Voices of Community Activists and Leaders, and Common Cause of New York, asserted that the named defendants could not "adequately" represent the interests before them.

Impact of lawsuit discrepancy

In July 2011, lawmakers said they would not be able to count prisoners in their home districts because of the ongoing lawsuit. According to Assemblyman John McEneny, co-chair of the redistricting task force, the lawsuit brought by the New York State Senate GOP is preventing legislators from enacting a new law that would place prisoners in their home districts rather than where the prison is located. In New York, this would have the general impact of increasing populations in New York City and decreasing populations in the rural upstate.[129]

However, according to Jeff Wice, a redistricting attorney who served as counsel to the national Democratic Party as well as a number of individual states, the law as passed by the legislature requires the new maps to count prisoners in their home districts or to remove the prisoners from the redistricting process completely. If legislators draw maps that continue to count prisoners in the district where they are incarcerated, then that would legally violate the current existing New York law. Doing so could open the process to further legal challenges and lawsuits.

Individuals join lawsuit

In August 2011, New York State Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine said a group of 15 individuals could join a lawsuit filed by some legislators regarding the prison redistricting law. However, Devine said three advocacy groups -- NAACP New York State Conference; Voices of Community Activists and Leaders-New York; and Common Cause of New York -- could not actually be part of the lawsuit.[130]

In mid-August 2011, the individuals filed a motion for summary judgement, asking a judge to throw out the original lawsuit brought by the senators, saying that counting prisoners where they are incarcerated "unjustly inflated the political influence of districts with prisons."[131]

LATFOR to follow law

While the Senate Republicans continued their lawsuit to overturn the law in August 2011, they agreed to count prisoners in their own home location. "The law will be complied with," said State senator Michael Nozzolio (R).[132]

Arguments presented in court

On October 4, 2011, lawyers for the Republicans who filed suit over prison-based redistricting presented their arguments before New York Supreme Court Justice Eugene Devine, stating that the law violates the constitution because it creates two census counts.

Lawyers for the defense argued the Census allows for state and local governments to define where prisoners are counted. Stephen Kerwin, a lawyer in the Attorney General's office, explained, "If the Census does not provide the information, than the Census does not control, and it does not make prison gerrymandering a requirement."[133]

Devine had 60 days to rule on the case.

Case thrown out

Devine threw out the case on December 2, 2011, upholding the law that prisoners must be counted at their last known home address. "Though inmates may be physically found in locations of their respective correctional facilities at the time the census is conducted, there is nothing in the record to indicate that such inmates have any actual permanency in these locations or have an intent to remain," he wrote.[134]

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called the decision "a victory for fundamental fairness and equal representation.”[135] Most of the New York's prisons are upstate, which are more Republican districts, while most prisoners are from Democratic New York City-area districts.[136]

On January 10, 2012, LATFOR agreed to count prisoners as residents of their home districts.[137] Republicans initially sought to appeal the ruling, but dropped it on February 24.[138]

Favors, et al. v. Cuomo, et al

A group of civic leaders filed a lawsuit on November 17, 2011, asking that a three-judge panel appoint a special master to oversee the drawing of new congressional and legislative districts. The current process, they argued, was “an exercise in partisan self-dealing and incumbent protection” that could hurt elections in 2012.[139] The suit names Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Senate and Assembly leaders and LATFOR as defendants.[140]

Richard Mancino, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, stated, "The system is out of time. The system is broken. It doesn’t seem likely that the system will correct itself, at least not when it’s being handled by very partisan people in Albany.”[141]

Motion for dismissal

In early December 2011, a group of defendants, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R), filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying it was too early for the court to intervene. During the last week of December 2011, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson (D) and Sen. Martin Dilan (D), originally named as defendants, said they supported the suit and the appointment of a special master. Their attorneys wrote that an "impasse in the redistricting process has arisen, and that, given the shortage of time prior to 2012 election season, the time is ripe for prompt Court intervention."[142]

AALDEF files to join suit

On December 28, 2011, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a complaint on behalf of four New York residents, seeking to add them to the suit. The complaint argued for equal representation for Asian-Americans in the new districts when they were drawn. According to AALDEF, the current lines split the largest Asian-American neighborhoods in the city into different districts, reducing their voting power. New York City's Asian-American population increased to more than 1 million, but Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D) was the only Asian representative in the legislature.[143]

3-judge panel appointed

Plaintiffs sent a letter to Judge Dora Irizarry on February 10, 2012, asking for a quick appointment of a three-judge panel to hear the case as time was running short. “The March 20 start to the candidate petitioning period is less than six weeks away, yet no congressional lines have even been proposed through New York’s legislative process. It is now exceedingly unlikely that a new congressional redistricting plan can be proposed and passed by the legislative redistricting task force, referred to and passed by the Legislature, signed by the Governor, sent to the U.S. Department of Justice and precleared, all sufficiently in advance of March 20 so that candidates and their supporters can prepare for the petitioning period,” the letter states.[144]

On February 13, 2012, Irizarry ordered such a panel appointed, giving it authority to appoint a special master to draw congressional districts if the legislative stalemate continues. The panel was appointed by the Chief Judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the next day.[145] They will review the lawsuit and decide from there how to proceed.[146]

Special master appointed

The panel dismissed calls from legislative leaders seeking to dismiss the case and appointed U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann as redistricting master. The panel ordered all parties to appear before them and Mann on February 27.[147] At the hearing, Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans acknowledged they did not have an agreement through LATFOR and Mann ordered them to submit plans for congressional districts two days later. Mann will issue her own maps by March 12.

She only had authority over the drawing of congressional districts, but that was set to change. Legislative leaders had to report to the court by March 15 and if they did not make progress the court would address legislative district lines as well.[148]

Legislators submit maps

On February 29, 2012, legislative leaders said they were unable to agree on a proposed map and instead three of the four legislative conferences submitted their own plans. Senate Democrats chose not to submit a plan because, as spokesman Mike Murphy explained, “Politicians should not be drawing the lines.”[149]

While all the proposals differed, the three parties each urged the court to preserve the seats of incumbents and agreed that the district held by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D), who was retiring, should be one of the two eliminated. Since the proposals were all submitted separately, they were not legally binding and Mann was not required to adopt any of them. However, if the legislature and Gov. Cuomo were able to agree on a plan, the court may have had to defer to it.[150]

The court also announced it would hire Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School, as an adviser for Mann. Persily recently served as special master in Connecticut. He was paid $400 an hour for his work.

Court releases draft map, final map

Judge Mann held a public hearing on March 5, 2012 to collect information on the proposals she had received. Lawyers for both the Republican and the Democratic leaders urged Mann to defer to the legislative proposals and to avoid drawing incumbents into the same district.[151] Mann asked why she should put those considerations before the guidelines set out in the state Constitution, which called for contiguous and compact districts while not mentioning incumbency at all.[152]

The following day, nearly a week before the deadline, Mann released her proposed map. Her plan closely resembled geographically compact lines as proposed by Common Cause and other good-government groups. In order to reduce the number of districts from 29 to 27, it eliminated Maurice Hinchey's district, as was proposed by both Democrats and Republicans, and got rid of a district in Queens.[153]

The legislature could still have avoided Mann's proposal from taking effect by adopting their own plan by March 15, 2012. However, on March 11, 2012 they announced their failure to reach an agreement. Late the next day, Mann issued her final recommendation, which made only minor changes to her initial recommendation. This plan now went to the panel of three federal judges who had until March 20, 2012 to decide whether or not to accept her recommendations.[154]

Republicans issued their formal objection to the plan on March 14, 2012, focusing their arguments on incumbency protection. Their letter said the court should avoid placing incumbents in the same district if at all possible, stating, “Professor Persily generally dismisses the Senate Majority Defendants’ (and other parties’) concerns about ‘respecting the cores of prior districts,’ insisting such claims are merely ‘pretextual arguments for protecting incumbents.’ As a threshold matter, incumbency protection is a traditional redistricting principle, as Professor Persily himself has previously recognized.”[155]

Map approved

Acting with a sense of urgency, the federal three-judge panel approved new congressional districts on March 19, 2012 the day before candidates could begin collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot.[49] The map was nearly identical to the proposal by U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, who was appointed to act as special redistricting master. The panel noted that Mann was able to provide the court with a map in two weeks’ time - something the legislature was unable to do for over a year.[156]

According to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, six of the seven GOP-held U.S. House seats would be less safe for the incumbents, while at least four Democratic incumbents would face less friendly districts.[157]

63rd seat

Sen. Martin Dilan (D) joined others in filing suit in Manhattan state Supreme Court on January 31, 2012, arguing that adding a 63rd seat to the Senate is a violation of the state Constitution. According to the lawsuit, "This increase is unconstitutional because LATFOR failed to apply the Senate size formula prescribed in Section 4 consistently, rationally, or in good faith."

It goes on to say, "Even assuming LATFOR has a modicum of discretion to determine which counting methodology is more faithful to the Constitution, Section 4 requires that its decision be exercised in a manner that is rational, evenhanded, and consistent. LATFOR has no discretion to manipulate the Constitution by changing its counting methodology after every Census to suit its ephemeral purposes, let alone to use two different counting methodologies within the same reapportionment."[158]

Senate Republicans said the plan met all legal requirements.

In early March 2012, State Supreme Court Judge Richard F. Braun ruled that the court had no ability to review the proposal as it had not been voted on or signed into law and was only a recommendation.[159] Following the passage of the new districts, the court heard oral arguments in the case on April 6, 2012.[160]

In a decision released April 13, 2012 state Supreme Court Justice Richard Braun rejected the Democrats' petition, saying they failed to establish that the process used by Republicans was unconstitutional. The judge did however say it was "disturbing" that Republicans used different methods for establishing boundaries in Queens, Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk counties.[161] Democrats received another blow on April 27, 2012, when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a letter in federal court saying they did not object to the plan.[162]

Partisan Registration by District

Congressional Districts in November 2010

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010[163]
Congressional District Republicans Democrats Unaffiliated District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 (Suffolk County - Smithtown) 170,066 146,018 166,014 482,098 16.47% Republican
2 (Suffolk County - Brentwood) 132,509 167,535 134,814 434,858 26.43% Democratic
3 (Suffolk County - Levittown) 186,580 143,825 132,108 462,518 29.73% Republican
4 (Nassau County - Hempstead) 148,905 182,860 105,760 437,525 22.80% Democratic
5 (Nassau County - Great Neck) 66,214 184,883 86,005 337,102 179.22% Democratic
6 (Queens) 26,011 262,245 58,884 347,140 908.21% Democratic
7 (Bronx) 36,263 228,720 65,920 330,903 530.72% Democratic
8 (Kings County) 53,438 268,306 97,215 418,959 402.09% Democratic
9 (Kings County) 63,808 201,380 87,294 352,482 215.60% Democratic
10 (Kings County) 20,747 324,715 62,274 407,736 1465.12% Democratic
11 (Kings County) 21,253 297,618 65,767 384,638 1300.36% Democratic
12 (Kings County) 29,121 250,749 80,217 360,087 761.06% Democratic
13 (Richmond County) 104,424 179,237 97,080 380,741 71.64% Democratic
14 (Queens) 66,598 252,140 105,099 423,837 278.60% Democratic
15 (New York County) 22,179 327,771 68,445 418,395 1377.84% Democratic
16 (Bronx) 15,839 262,794 52,034 330,667 1559.16% Democratic
17 (Rockland County - Spring Valley) 55,040 233,915 82,038 370,993 324.99% Democratic
18 (Rockland County - White Plains) 108,711 193,862 123,407 425,980 78.33% Democratic
19 (Orange County - Beacon) 147,395 152,850 141,992 442,237 3.70% Democratic
20 (Delaware County - Saratoga Springs) 187,780 126,774 152,838 467,392 48.12% Republican
21 (Fulton County - Albany) 112,714 181,747 136,460 430,921 61.25% Democratic
22 (Sullivan County - Kingston) 123,083 165,638 128,109 416,830 34.57% Democratic
23 (Clinton County - Potsdam) 167,148 123,478 109,560 400,186 35.37% Republican
24 (Cortland County - Utica) 157,080 134,985 106,787 398,852 16.37% Republican
25 (Wayne County - Syracuse) 146,560 150,923 140,499 437,982 2.98% Democratic
26 (Genesee County - Batavia) 174,205 147,732 125,639 447,576 17.92% Republican
27 (Erie County - Buffalo) 115,174 207,618 114,241 437,033 80.26% Democratic
28 (Monroe County - Rochester) 86,525 222,582 89,265 398,372 157.24% Democratic
29 (Yates County - Hornell) 174,996 131,021 116,692 422,709 33.56% Republican
State Totals 2,920,366 5,853,921 3,032,457 11,806,744 100.45% Democratic 26 D, 3 R 21 D, 8 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.

Timeline

All redistricting plans had to be in place before the beginning of the 2012 elections in New York State.

History

New York's history of redistricting has been rife with not only partisan conflicts, but also geographical ones, along with intra-party factions.

The 1894 state Constitution created an Assembly of 150 members, where each of the 62 counties received one seat, with the rest accorded to the most populous counties by population ratios. The Senate was set at 50 seats and was to be expanded after each reapportionment to reflect the number of districts received by the twelve largest counties over what they received in 1894. This resulted in rural areas receiving substantially more legislative representatives. The 1960s began with rural areas holding 17 more seats than they would have by population alone, and saw senate districts in the 12 largest counties averaging 100,000 more residents than other counties.

On May 1, 1961, WMCA radio and others filed suit in federal court alleging New York's apportionment process was unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th amendment. The court said that it was a political matter that they could not decide. WMCA appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, who, following their decision in Baker v. Carr, sent the case back to the district court. The district court upheld the constitutionality of New York's apportionment process, and once again WMCA appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 15, 1964 the Supreme Court ruled that neither chamber of the New York Legislature adhered to the equal population standard. They directed the case back to the district court, who mandated the legislature enact a new redistricting plan. A special session was called December 15 to take up the issue. Elections in November had rendered a large number of the Republican majority lame ducks and they preceded to enact four different redistricting plans in the hopes that one would be approved by the courts. Three of them were declared unconstitutional by a federal court, with the remaining one declared invalid by the New York Supreme Court due to the fact that it called for an assembly over the 150 member limit. The federal court ruled this plan would be used for the November 1965 elections and required a new plan for 1966.

Legislators failed to enact a new plan in 1965 and the state Supreme Court appointed a commission in 1966 made up of former judges to prepare a valid plan. Following much debate, this resulted in a 57 seat Senate and 150 member assembly in accordance with the equal population standard. The major shift resulting from this change was to transfer districts from rural areas to the New York City and upstate metropolitan areas. Three additional seats were added to the senate following the 1970 census.[164]

An Advisory Commission on redistricting was created in 1976[7].

Role of technology

The evolution of technology allowed for interested and informed parties to play a greater role in the redistricting process. Former U.S. Rep. Thomas Reynolds of Buffalo remembered districts being sketched on a Mobil Oil Co. map in 1982, on a main frame computer in 1992, and on personal computers in 2002. This greatly opened the process, as he explained, "Everybody had a plan to come up with that they thought would make a solution. And that was congressmen and state legislators themselves. It was reform groups. It was advocates. It was communities of interest."[165]

2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[166]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 9.43%
State Senate Districts 9.78%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There were three lawsuits, not counting appeals, related to the New York 2000 census redistricting process.[167]

  • Rodriguez v. Pataki, No. 02 Civ. 0618 (S.D. N.Y. May 23, 2002) : Plaintiffs challenged the current congressional districts as in violation of equal population requirements and requested the court to draw new districts if the Legislature failed to do so. A Special Master was appointed on April 26, 2002. On May 13, 2002, the Special Master recommended a plan to the court and on May 23 it was adopted by the three-judge court, but said it was still “willing, indeed eager” to let state lawmakers draw their own plan.
  • Allen v. Pataki, No. 02-101712 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. County, May 29, 2002) : Plaintiffs challenged the state senate redistricting plan signed by the Governor on April 24, 2002, on the ground that it failed to meet equal population requirements. They alleged the plan favored upstate districts and disfavored downstate districts. The trial court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that would have enjoined the use of the plan for the 2002 election.
  • Rodriguez v. Pataki, No. 02 Civ. 0618; Allen v. Pataki, No. 02 Civ. 3239, 308 F. Supp. 2d 346 (S.D. N.Y. Mar. 15, 2004), aff’d 543 U.S. ____ (Nov. 29, 2004) (No. 04-218) (mem.) : Plaintiffs challenged various state Senate districts enacted in 2002, some as violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and some as violations of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. One group of plaintiff-intervenors challenged a Senate district and another challenged the 17th Congressional District as violating § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court dismissed all the challenges.

Constitutional explanation

The New York Constitution provides authority to the Legislature for redistricting in Sections 4 and 5 of Article III.

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Epoch Times, "New York Loses House Seats After 2010 Census," December 22, 2010
  2. Gotham Gazette, "Census Brings Unpleasant Surprise for State Politicians," January 2011
  3. Post Star, "Congressional battle lines set to be redrawn," January 9, 2011
  4. Washington Post, "The top 10 states to watch in redistricting," March 18, 2011
  5. New York Observer, "Backgrounder: How Redistricting Will Reshape New York's Battle Lines," December 27, 2010
  6. Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment - Homepage
  7. 7.0 7.1 Brennan Center for Justice, "Redistricting in the States"(See Page 30)
  8. Times Union, "New York awaits more reform," April 3, 2011
  9. New York Daily News, "Senate and Assembly Lawyering Up for Redistricting," July 28, 2011
  10. Capitol Tonight, "Assembly Democrats Hire Redistricting Consultant," September 29, 2011
  11. Capital New York, "At a Brooklyn hearing, the states redistricting task force comes under criticism for a lack of diversity," September 20, 2011
  12. PR Newswire, "Media Advisory — Census Bureau Ships Local 2010 Census Data to New York," March 23, 2011
  13. WNYC, "Redistricting: What Is the Deal in New York?," March 24, 2011
  14. U.S. Census Bureau, "New York Custom tables 2010," accessed March 14, 2011
  15. City Hall News, "Bloomberg, Senate Democrats Team Up To Challenge Census Figures," March 28, 2011 (timed out)
  16. Black Voice News, "Census Numbers Challenged in New York," April 4, 2011
  17. Buffalo News, "City weighs challenge to data showing 10.7% drop," April 4, 2011
  18. The Leader, "Reed on redistricting: 29th may not be targeted," December 22, 2010
  19. National Journal, "Q+A: Tom Reynolds," January 21, 2011
  20. New York Daily News, "L.I. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s district on the chopping block," February 2012
  21. Politicker, "Congressional Redistricting Plan Begins to Unfold," February 9, 2012
  22. Buffalo news, "Tokasz to aid Higgins on redistricting," March 5, 2011
  23. Politico, "Lobbyists join redistricting in N.Y.," March 3, 2011
  24. Washington Post, "The Fix," "Redistricting battles hit a fever pitch," June 3, 2011
  25. Ithaca Journal, "N.Y. faces tough task meeting primary deadlines," January 30, 2012
  26. WGRZ, "McEneny: Senate, Assembly To Compare Congressional Maps," February 20, 2012
  27. Syracuse, "New York legislators fail to make deal for congressional redistricting," March 12, 2012
  28. Times Union, "Cuomo warns of veto over redistricting," July 7, 2011
  29. Post Star, "Redistricting process begins," July 7, 2011
  30. LATFOR "Hearings," July 6, 2011 (dead link)
  31. New York Daily News, "State Senate Republicans mull adding extra seat to 62-member body," September 19, 2011
  32. New York Daily News, "Senate Dems: Adding 63rd Seat Unconstitutional," September 19, 2011
  33. Poughkeepsie Journal, "Skelos: 'Good chance' Senate will expand," January 3, 2012
  34. PolitickerNY, "Gianaris Blasts Possible GOP Plan to Increase State Senate Size," January 4, 2012
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