How the redistricting creates uncertainty for New York politics

Since 2009, U.S. Representative Paul Tonko has represented a district that spans the Capital Region, an area in upstate New York that has reliably elected Democrats for a generation.

Nonetheless, Tonko is waiting to see how the district will change in the next redistricting as the political calendar to qualify for the ballot through petitions advances.

“I just hope we get the district lines as soon as possible because the petition date is fast approaching,” Tonko said. “I’d like to know what my district will look like and if it’s split where I’m going to go from then on.”

Tonko’s concern underscores the uncertainty even some Democrats may feel these days around the redistricting process. State lawmakers decided this month to reject competing maps drawn by a commission created as part of a reform under the then government. Andrew Cuomo to remove the Legislative Assembly from the politically charged process.

With the rejection, Albany lawmakers have taken a step toward what seems like a likely outcome: district boundaries for the House of Representatives, state Senate, and state Assembly drawn by lawmakers. Albany Democrats.

Consider the hypothetical impact on the Tonko District, which covers the towns and region around Schenectady, Troy, and Albany. The district is sandwiched between districts represented by Republican Representative Elise Stefanik, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, and Democratic Representative Antonio Delgado, who is seeking a third term in a battleground House seat. .

Will the Democrats try to make life harder for Stefanik? Or facilitate the re-election of Delgado? A redesign of either seat has the potential to impact Tonko.

At this time, the outcome is unclear and likely won’t be for weeks.

“I think it was the hope the commission could provide that independent, suppressed review and come up with a single map,” Tonko said.

Redistricting takes place once every 10 years and is based on the most recent census data. Since New York’s population has not grown as rapidly as other parts of the United States, the state will lose a seat in the House this year.

In the past, Democrats who have controlled the state Assembly since the fallout of the Watergate era have drawn cards to protect their incumbents. Republicans, who had long held a majority in the state Senate, did the same in their chambers.

In 2012, Cuomo struck a deal with lawmakers to approve a change to the process (that year, state lawmakers couldn’t agree on House lines and allowed a judge to draw the lines). lines). But a decade later, Democrats face a tough election cycle and a tightly controlled House of Representatives.

New York Democrats should try to maximize their advantage by redistricting at the federal and state levels this year. And as Republicans change voting laws in state homes under their control, Democrats are also set to assert a similar advantage here in New York.

“I am never in favor of unilateral disarmament,” said New York Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs. “Republicans across the country are redrawing lines in Congress to favor their candidates. Without being obnoxious to New York, if lines are being drawn with communities and helping Democrats, that’s the path we should go.”

There are already fallouts from the Democratic-shaped district lines pending. Republican Representative John Katko, a New York-area central lawmaker who positioned himself as a moderate and voted to impeach Trump a year ago, is choosing to retire rather than run for re-election in what could be a very different political landscape.

“We hoped this process would work to produce a fair compromise map,” said Senate Republican Minority Leader Robert Ortt. “It’s not just what Rob Ortt, it’s what the people of New York wanted.”

Ortt acknowledges that the redistricting issue is, for the vast majority of voters, a wobbly topic. But it’s also who ultimately matters to who holds power in state capitols and Washington, D.C.

Ortt and his fellow Republicans held a press conference last week lambasting Democrats over changes to criminal justice legislation — changes that have come about thanks to Democratic successes in the past two election cycles.

How the district line is drawn in the coming weeks could determine whether similar policies continue. Power over taxes, criminal justice measures and the direction of the country – and who will be able to wield it for years to come, potentially – could be determined by the process.

“It’s broccoli, it’s a boring thing for a lot of people,” he said, “but it has a lot of impact for people.”

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