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NY's panel tasked with drawing new election districts calls it quits, handing the keys to lawmakers

A voting site in Broome County.(Vaughn Golden/WSKG)
A voting site in Broome County.(Vaughn Golden/WSKG)

New district lines for Congress, the State Senate, and the Assembly for this year’s elections will be drawn by the state Legislature after members of the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission called it quits on Monday.

The commission — split between Democrat- and Republican-appointed officials — released two statements Monday, essentially saying negotiations would not continue.

For those who’ve watched the process play out, the result wasn’t a surprise. The commission, while labeled as independent, is composed of partisan-appointed officials who fell into the same gridlock that’s often plagued their appointers.

There was  a hint of that last fall, when the Independent Redistricting Commission released two sets of competing maps for new district lines in Congress and the state Legislature — one set each from the Democrat- and Republican-appointed members.

That didn’t inspire confidence from legal groups at the time, who said the process was confusing to average New Yorkers, who were then called to publicly comment on that initial set of maps.

The first nail in the coffin was  hammered at the start of the year, when both sides, again, decided to propose two separate sets of maps for approval by the state Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.

The Legislature, in turn, voted down both sets of maps this month. That kicked the can back to the Independent Redistricting Commission, which had the chance to negotiate a unified map for consideration by lawmakers.

But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, according to statements issued from both sides of the commission Monday.

The Democrat-appointed members took the first shot Monday morning, blaming their Republican-appointed counterparts for the breakdown.

“The Republicans are intentionally running out the clock to prevent the Commission from voting on second maps by its deadline,” they wrote in a statement.

When the Legislature kicked the maps back to the Independent Redistricting Commission, it set a deadline of Tuesday, January 25, for the panel to come to a consensus. That’s not expected to happen.

The Democrat-appointed officials claimed that the other members of the commission had stonewalled attempts to meet, and informally rejected a new set of maps they came up with as a compromise.

“Like in December, they again rejected that proposal and have not presented or agreed to make a counterproposal,” the Democrat-appointed members said in their statement.

But the Republican-appointed members of the commission said that wasn’t true, and that the Democrat-appointed members wouldn’t come to the table to negotiate a unified set of maps.

“What the Democrat caucus isn’t telling you, however, is that when this meeting took place, they took the position that they were ‘happy’ with ‘their’ plan and repeatedly refused to meet further for the purpose of discussing a single, consensus plan,” those members said.

They said they had no incentive to stop negotiating the maps because it would be the only avenue for Republicans to have input on the new districts.

That could be true. Because the Independent Redistricting Commission won’t be sending the Legislature a new set of maps to consider, state law requires lawmakers to draw the lines themselves.

Because Democrats hold the majority in both the Senate and the Assembly, they’ll also be the deciding vote on whichever maps are approved. A recent state law allows the Legislature to use input gathered by the Independent Redistricting Commission for that process.

There isn’t a hard deadline for the Legislature to approve those maps, but they’ll have to do it sometime in the coming weeks to give candidates time to prepare for the state’s primary election in June.

The new maps will redraw district lines for the state Legislature and Congress, where New York is losing a seat after last year’s census results.