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New York redistricting: Commissioners consider bipartisan deal on House lines

An agreement between five Democrats and five Republicans on the Independent Redistricting Commission would not mark the end of the process of reapportioning the 26 seats in the New York House of Representatives, after the state’s highest court rejected the last year the current lines. There are about six battleground races in New York this year, and any changes in the lines could prove important in who wins the seats.

Any maps produced by the commission would be voted on by the state Legislature — and the Democrats who dominate it would have the option to reject the lines and write their own.

But several people close to the process have said in recent weeks that a commission compromise could have a chance of winning approval after similar efforts failed in 2022, leading to the current situation.

A compromise plan would be better for the Republican Party than one drawn up entirely by Democrats, and some Republicans might accept lines that diminish their chances of gaining a seat or two rather than risk losing to a total gerrymander of the Democrats.

And Democrats could settle for maps that slightly improve their position, while allowing them to avoid accusations of gimmickry and another drawn-out legal battle.

In addition, the maps drawn by Parliament would have to be approved by qualified majorities, which would require the near unanimity of Democrats. A bipartisan plan from the commission would only need a simple majority.

Commissioners remained tight-lipped Monday night about what the lines might look like, and several officials in the state Legislature said they had yet to hear details.

“There are still some things that are being finalized,” Jenkins said. “The commission is still working around Thursday.”

State officials familiar with the process have predicted in recent weeks that a compromise plan could result in the Syracuse-area seat being held by a new Republican representative. Brandon Williams more favorable to Democrats.

One of the districts held by upstate Republican representatives. Marc Molinaro And Mike Lawler could also help Democrats — but probably not both without harming other incumbent Democrats in neighboring seats.

Republican districts on Staten Island and Long Island could remain mostly the same as in 2022, but it’s also possible they face some changes, as well as key changes in the River Valley. Hudson. New York Republicans were able to flip three seats in 2022 with current lines, giving the GOP a slim majority in the House.

An unanswered question is when the legislature would act in this direction.

Last week, it was widely expected that the commission would meet later this week. That would allow them to wait to see how Tuesday’s special election to replace expelled Rep. George Santos on Long Island goes, although commissioners deny that played a role in the timing.

“There is no truth to that,” Nesbitt responded Monday.

While there was expected to be a meeting this Wednesday, the Legislature had begun exploring the possibility of extending the work week, which is currently scheduled to end that day in Albany. They could then conclude the process before the weekend.

But they don’t yet have specific plans for their return. The fact that the meeting takes place on Thursday afternoon means that voting even on Friday would be a real logistical battle.

Meanwhile, members are expected to be off for all of next week for President’s Day and winter break. But a special session next week remains a possibility, some officials suggested.

If they don’t return sooner, their next scheduled day in Albany is Monday, Feb. 27 — the day congressional candidates are scheduled to begin collecting petitions.

Although members say they hope for a deal, every resident of Albany is aware that a deal between the commission and the Legislature can still fail.

“We’ve been awfully close in 2021,” said Republican Sen. Jack Martins, who co-chaired the commission when it tried to draw lines in its latest iteration. “And there was a sea change on the part of the commission members.”

The commissioners failed to agree on the guidelines during this go-around.

When their first set of maps was rejected by Parliament, the two sides never even agreed on a meeting date to discuss a second draft – a procedural shortcoming that led the courts to reject the lines that ultimately been drawn up by Parliament.

A December appeals court ruling ordered the commission to pick up where it left off and negotiate a second plan by Feb. 28.


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