NY redistricting process – slow and gerrymandered are the word of the day

Since the results of the 2010 Census were released, New York State knew there was going to be a problem. The State lost federal representation, due to a slow growth rate coupled with an exodus from the high taxes and diminishing opportunities for small and large businesses. A process that has been ongoing since the 1950’s. That loss meant that elected politicians, somewhere in the State would be lost – but from which political party and in what districts?

Govenor Andrew Cuomo
The early battles made it clear that partisanship was far from dead in the Empire State. The State Senate and the Assembly each redrew the political districts to ensure that encumbents retained strongholds, and that potential challengers would face near insurmountable tasks in trying to wrest a seat from each party. Redistricting has previously provided a 95% incumbent re-election rate. Neither elected body was innocent of favoritism, and both earned the anger of independent agencies and watchdog organizations. The result was a guarantee from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto the proposals as they currently stand.

But State lines are not the only issue at hand. New York must also lose 2 Congressional seats. These seats of elected power are held dear by Democrats and Republicans alike. So much so that 3 federal judges have appointed Magistrate Roanne Mann to preside and determine what the final look of New York’s political landscape will become. That will happen March 14, 2012.

There is 1 area of consensus though. Both Democrats and Republicans are willing to accept the departure of Rep. Maurice Hinchey as the final moments for the NY-22 Congressional district.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey

Photo credit: The Daily Freeman

Rep. Maurice Hinchey has long held his seat, with ample security in the previously gerrymandered NY-22. The district is engineered to include Ithaca and Newburgh and several SUNY college campuses, bolstering the liberal and Democrat vote enough to prevent opposition. Though in the 2010 mid-term election, amid calls that Rep. Hinchey might lose, the big gun of the Democrat Party was called in – former President Bill Clinton.

Residents in the Southern Tier, based on the willingness of Democrats to forgo the district and Republicans eagerness to break up the voting block, are likely to wake up on or shortly after March 14th and find themselves part of a new Congressional district that they know nothing about, lead by someone they probably never have heard of. One Congressional district likely to gain a large part of the former NY-22 will be the NY-24, currently being lead by Republican Richard Hanna.

Looking at the other Congressional district to be removed, Democrats are eager to strip Republican Bob Turner of the NY-9. This was the seat lost by Democrats after the retirement-in-disgrace of Rep. Anthony Weiner. A loss that was unexpected and a bruise to the collective ego of the Party.

Republicans are not as eager to lose a seat that they just won, in an area that has been dominated by Democrats for decades. They have proposed that they NY-5, held by Democrat Gary Ackerman on the border of Queens and Nassau County Long Island, as the other downstate congressional district to be discarded.

In all, there is nothing new in the news being relayed at the moment. Rumors of the loss of the NY-22 started the moment that Rep. Maurice Hinchey announced he would retire at the end of the year. Speculation that Rep. Hinchey might lose the district, based on the 2010 mid-term results, and was pushed to the retirement in order to ease the difficulty of the redistricting process remain speculation. The probability of the NY-9 being selected as another victim of the redistricting process was exponentially increased the second that Republican Bob Turner received the news he won.

On February 15th we discussed the issue, as well as after the announcement of retirement by Rep. Hinchey on January 18th. At this point, the only people likely still hoping that the NY-22 will continue to exist are those candidates that declared the intent to run for Rep. Hinchey’s seat – Dan Lamb (D), Leslie Danks Burke (D), Tom Engel (R), and George Phillips (R) who was so close to winning in 2010 that he forced Clinton to come to town.

At this point anything is of course possible. The NY-5 could fall on the chopping block, the NY-22 could survive (in a highly altered and far less biased zoning), and its possible that New York State might actually get districts that are designed in a manner that makes sense in some geographical or population aspect.

Or Gov. Cuomo could make a deal and accept the gerrymandered (either State Senate or Assembly versions) redistricting in exchange for a constitutional amendment for independent redistricting in 2020.

Or every expectation will be fulfilled and the NY-9 and NY-22 will be gone with partisanship fully intact.

You could also get hit by lightning, or choke on a rice cake while jogging. The odds are likely the same as the first 2 options above happening.

About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

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