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2 parties, 2 cards: Democrats and Republicans bicker over redistribution

New York’s new bipartisan Redistribution Commission got off to a bad start on Wednesday, with its Democratic and Republican members failing to agree on a first set of congressional map proposals and legislation.

Instead, the New York State Independent Redistribution Commission, the body empowered by voters to remove politics from the mapping process, said it would proceed for now with two competing proposals, one developed by its Democratic members and the other by Republicans.

While New York is expected to lose a seat on its delegation to Congress after last year’s census, both maps proposed eliminating a district in the upstate, where the population has declined. But the Republican plan appears to offer his party candidates a better chance of retaining seats in northern and western New York City, as well as Staten Island, while the Democrats’ proposals seemed more likely to extend dominance. of their party in Congress by moving more seats down state.

Nothing in the state’s constitution obliges the commission, which draws lines for the first time since its inception in 2014, to accept a single set of maps for the congressional, assembly and senate districts of the ‘State at this point in the process. But the partisan feud over what amounts to a preliminary discussion does not encourage optimism that the commission can unite around a single set of bipartisan cards to present to Albany for ratification.

His failure could pave the way for qualified Democratic majorities in Albany to step in to determine the final cards. Party leaders there and in Washington are already quietly circling around in case the commission cannot come to a final deal or produce a final result like the party leaders. They hope to use the process to eliminate up to five Republican seats in Congress, strengthening the party nationally as it attempts to maintain a narrow majority in the House and consolidate permanent majorities in the legislature.

Under the New York Constitution, the Redistribution Commission leads the way in drawing maps. But if it fails to come to a consensus among itself or provides lawmakers with a map they just don’t like, the Legislature can overpower the body and draw almost any map it chooses. , provided that the districts meet constitutional requirements and are roughly equal in size.

Republicans in New York and Albany will certainly balk at the process and could challenge the outcome in the courts, which mapped Congress today in 2012 amid a partisan dispute in Albany.

The Republican commissioners wereted no time in pointing the finger at their Democratic counterparts, whom they accused of having interrupted in recent days discussions aimed at trying to reconcile the competing cards. Privately, Republicans fear the Democratic commissioners have no intention of reaching a deal and prefer to let the body fail so they can kickstart the process directly in the legislature to draw more advantageous cards for their party.

Republicans on the committee lamented the lack of consensus, as well as the weaknesses they saw in Democratic plans. Independent commissioner Ross Brady said he had “gone from very optimistic to extremely disappointed,” noting in particular what he called “big deviations” from the population on the Democrats’ map.

Democrats were prepared to argue, however, that competing cards could be a good thing, allowing voters to compare alternative lines to advise which commission they preferred. The commissioners stressed that the presentation of two decks of cards on Wednesday had not closed the door to the possibility that they would eventually find a consensus and release a single deck.

New York voters created the independent commission by constitutional amendment in 2014, but its outlines were the product of a compromise between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Republicans, who controlled the State Senate at the era. The idea was to take the plotting out of the hands of politicians in the Legislative Assembly eager to protect their party and their incumbents and, starting this year, give it to a two-party body that could fairly divide the state.

But the commission struggled to assert its independence from the start, and critics say its structure – with most of the people appointed by party leaders to the legislature – makes compromise extremely difficult.

The panel only received funding from Albany in April, forcing commissioners to volunteer their time for the first eight months. The Legislature, on the other hand, continued to fund its own card-making task force year after year.

The panel also did not receive detailed census data until last month due to national delays; the panel is still awaiting the state prison population data the commission needs to refine its maps.

nytimes Gt