PoliticsThe White Plains Examiner

Commission Keeps New York Congressional Map Mostly Unchanged

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Independent Redistricting Commission Chair Ken Jenkins said last week he was satisfied with the results of the commission’s work.

New York State’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) voted last Thursday to send a newly-proposed but largely unchanged congressional map to the state legislature last Thursday.

The redrawn map of New York’s 26 House seats, which required the approval of seven of 10 commissioners, saw nine members support the new maps. Democratic Commissioner Yovan Samuel Collado was the only member of the commission, which was evenly split among Democrats and Republicans, to reject the updated map.

Before voting, Ken Jenkins, the commission’s Democratic chairman who is also the deputy Westchester County executive, said the maps were worked on in the spirit of compromise.

“Throughout this process we did not always agree but we always had mutual respect and a shared understanding of the need to fulfill our constitutional duty,” Jenkins said.

IRC Republican Vice Chair Charles Nesbitt pointed out that although there were disagreements, both he and Jenkins were committed to the process.

“We would not have the product we are presenting to you today without that commitment,” Nesbitt mentioned.

The IRC’s proposal is virtually identical to the 16th and 17th Congressional districts for 2022.

It signals a positive note after a contentious two-year battle of stalemates, court appeals, accusations of gerrymandering and the need for a special master to redraw the lines for the congressional contests two years ago.

After the IRC was at an impasse in 2022, the Democratic-dominated state legislature presented districts that many observers viewed as heavily gerrymandered. After it was challenged in court, a judge ordered a more neutral map to be drawn, which helped Republicans flip four previously Democratic-held seats, giving the GOP a small margin of control in the House of Representatives.

Democrats sought a new map for the upcoming 2024 election, arguing that the special master’s task was for the 2022 election only and went to the Court of Appeals to have the IRC devise new lines. The court ruled that the IRC reconvene and submit a redrawn map to the state legislature by Feb. 28.

Locally, lines for the 16th Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-Yonkers), remained unchanged. Bowman is being challenged by Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Dobbs Ferry resident Marty Dolan in the June Democratic primary. The district includes the northern Bronx and virtually all of southern Westchester.

The 17th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Mike Lawler (R-Pearl River), includes all of northern Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties and parts of Dutchess County. The freshman congressman narrowly defeated five-term Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney in November 2022.

A compromise could be seen in a swap of redrawn lines favoring incumbent Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro in the 19th Congressional District and Democrat Rep. Pat Ryan, who represents the 18th Congressional District. If the map is approved, Molinaro’s district will include more Republican areas in Orange County while Ryan’s district would add Democratic areas in Ulster County.

Congressional districts in New York City and Long Island also went untouched, including the 3rd District, just won by Democrat Tom Suozzi last Tuesday in a special election.

A few political figures expressed satisfaction with the commission’s proposed maps. State Republican Chair Ed Cox said the IRC rightfully kept most districts the same.

“The current congressional districts are the most competitive districts in the nation and resulted because New York Republicans brought action against the illegal gerrymander attempted in 2022 by Democrats in Albany and Washington,” Cox said.

“The state legislature should adopt these district lines without change. The voting public deserves to have continuity in district boundaries and to avoid chaos.”

Dolan said that the 2024 lines “are a win for Westchester and in particular for the long-term strength of its Jewish voters.”

Dolan and others had feared that the current 16th Congressional District could be changed to try and protect Bowman by carving out communities with larger Jewish populations because of his longtime alliance with the Democratic Socialists of America.

A statement put out by the Latimer campaign cautioned that the state legislature still must approve the updated map.

“Regardless of the timing or the ultimate disposition of the lines, we look forward to continuing to bring our message of progressive results that benefit the people of our area, in whatever neighborhood they live and in whatever jurisdictions are ultimately assigned to CD-16,” Latimer’s statement read.

After last week’s IRC vote, Jenkins applauded the bipartisan work of the commission.

“This vote is ultimately a victory for the commission and for the process and the democratic participation in the State of New York.”

The new map requires a two-thirds majority of both the Assembly and Senate. If approved by the Democratic-controlled state legislature, it will have to be signed into law by Hochul.

Martin Wilbur contributed to this article.

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