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Controversy over redistricting proposal continues

Feb 01, 2022 2:04 pm

More information continues to come out about the proposal for Congressional redistricting from the New York legislature, including maps of what could be the new districts. The biggest changes locally include in Rensselaer County, which was previously entirely in the 19th Congressional District, but would now be split in half, with the everything above North Greenbush, Sand Lake, and Berlin switching to the 21st Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Elise Stefanik. Albany County was previously all in the 20th Congressional District, now represented by Democrat Paul Tonko. The new proposal moves Albany County towns Coeymans and Bethlehem from the 20th District, to the 19th District, currently represented by Antonio Delgado. Schoharie County moves entirely from the 19th to the 21st Congressional District under the proposal. And only the northwest corner of Dutchess County remains in the 19th Congressional District, with the rest of Dutchess County moving to the 18th Congressional District, now represented by Sean Maloney. Redistricting occurs every ten years after the Census, and an independent redistricting commission was supposed to do that work. But that body was designed by the legislature to be toothless, so when they failed to agree on new district maps, the legislature took over, proposing these maps. Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who is running in the 19th Congressional election this year, called the the redistricting process led by Democratic state lawmakers "a scam to begin with.... The Democrats in the Legislature wanted to control the outcome," he told reporters Jan. 31. "At the end of the day, I'm hopeful the courts will step in because this is a blatant effort to gerrymander for no other purpose." The New York state constitution states, “Districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.” But the courts have never turned down a map approved by the Legislature. "The state courts are really going to be really reluctant to overturn a state legislatively enacted plan," said Jeffrey Wice, who heads the New York Census and Redistricting Institute. But even if the courts agree to the new maps, that does not mean they are fair. "The lines are so heavily gerrymandered they will be non-competitive," Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said in a statement. "It's a major disservice to the voters, who were first denied any hope of a truly independent process ten years ago when the so-called Independent Commission was conceived." The legislature plans to vote on the proposal later this week.