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Upstate Republicans knock Democrats' rush to approve new congressional maps

New Congressional district lines signed into law in New York in February
LATFOR
/
latfor.state.ny.us
New Congressional district lines signed into law in New York in February

New York state leaders swiftly approved a new set of Congressional district maps on Wednesday, rejecting a plan advanced by a bipartisan commission. Voting rights activists and several Republican lawmakers are criticizing the move.

Last month, in the latest development in a long battle over the state’s Congressional District lines – and the potential control of Congress – New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission voted 9 to 1 to approve a set of maps for the November election.

Democrats who control both houses of the state legislature, however, rejected the plan. On Wednesday, the Senate and Assembly voted to approve their own version of the maps. Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul quickly signed the legislature’s maps into law.

Republicans in the Capital District voted against the maps, including State Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh of the 112th District.

“I just think it's time. We need to move on. I'm glad that, so far, I'm hearing that it doesn't sound like there are gonna be any lawsuits and we can just kind of move on. And, hopefully, in 10 years we can do this better,” said Walsh.

Republicans successfully sued to block maps approved by Democrats for the 2022 elections, a decision that led to a court-appointed special master to draw districts for that key midterm.

Assemblyman Matt Simpson, a Republican of the 114th District, says the latest move by Democrats ignores the will of New Yorkers who voted to create the Independent Redistricting Commission in a constitutional amendment a decade ago.

“It's just another example where the majority says, ‘Well, let's just get in front of the voters and serve our will rather than the will the voters.’ And that's why I voted ‘no.’ This process was flawed right from the beginning,” said Simpson.

State Senator Jim Tedisco, a Republican representing the 44th District, attacked the Democratic domination in Albany.

“They have the Senate, they have the Assembly, they have the governor, same affiliation. And they want to win Congress now – so bad that they endanger what the public actually wants, and that's a representative democracy and elected officials within it that give a fair election districts and fair elections. And I will say this, if Christopher Columbus and his adventures used the mappers they use to make maps, he would have never discovered America,” said Tedisco.

Democrats are defending the new set of maps. Assemblyman John McDonald of the 108th District said the IRC’s maps divided some communities. He cited Stephentown and North Greenbush in Rensselaer County as being represented by two members of Congress under the IRC plan, saying in a statement:

“The rejected map clearly failed to create fair and sensible Congressional lines, with numerous counties split into multiple districts for no reason other than to help incumbents,” said McDonald.

Voting rights organization Common Cause New York criticized lawmakers for the years-long back-and-forth over the maps. Congressional candidates will be running under the third different map in three elections at a time where Republicans narrowly control the House and redistricting has become nationalized.

Common Cause New York Executive Director Susan Lerner spoke on WAMC’s Capitol Connection. She says the protracted redistricting process adds to cynicism among voters.

“It seems like there are two political parties with big foam bats, hitting each other over the head over the maps, which is not what our system is supposed to be,” said Lerner.

But Lerner sees one silver lining – an end to the arguing, for now.

“What's most important is that we are putting a cap on this endless, sad shaggy dog story. The maps are final, and voters and candidates can now turn to what's really important, which is the election,” said Lerner.

 

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.