Drawing the Lines
I know redistricting is boring, but go ahead and read about it anyway
Happy Monday! We got a few inches of heavy snow overnight here in Albany — and with no place to go, it was a perfect day to clear the driveway and go sledding with the kids. (Sledding is more fun when you’re a “grown-up,” I find, because you’re heavier and can go faster. Hehe.)
New York continued to inch forward in the once-a-decade process of redistricting, and it’s looking likely that Democrats will find themselves in total control of drawing maps for Congress and the state-level seats for the first time in more than 50 years. An independent panel failed to reach consensus, and members of the state Legislature rejected the panel’s proposed maps last week.
Since Democrats have a 2/3 majority in both the state Assembly and Senate, that party would have the ability to draw lines that favor its members. This could be particularly important in the closely divided U.S. House of Representatives, and provide a bright spot for Democrats at a time when more statehouses are controlled by Republicans, as I wrote in The Wall Street Journal today with Aaron Zitner and Chad Day.
“New York actually matters in the national landscape,” Shannon Powell, co-director of the new No Surrender NY federal PAC, told me. Her group is drawing support from progressive activists that campaigned for Democrats to take over the state Legislature, and she said drawing favorable lines reflects the will of voters.
Republicans warn that any Democratic gerrymandering could lead to litigation, and the Democrats leaders of the state Assembly and Senate are saying basically nothing. After all, the independent commission still has another chance to draw acceptable lines, but many observers and lawmakers said they won’t be holding their breath.
New York’s House delegation now has 19 Democrats and eight Republicans in districts that were drawn in 2012 by a federal court. Democratic strategists said they thought it would be possible to draw lines that would yield as many as 22 or 23 Democrats from the state, but maybe not this year.
The delegation also has to shrink by a seat because of population shifts, so someone will be left without a chair when the music stops. Perhaps making that easier, GOP Rep. John Katko (Syracuse area) announced Friday that he won’t seek re-election, and Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi (Long Island) is running for governor.
If past is prologue, there will be lots more twists, turns and court cases before this is settled. I covered redistricting a decade ago, and found it to be an opaque, complicated, often-boring process shaded by interpersonal and partisan politics. Those are all but inevitable, according to former Assemblyman Jack McEneny. The Albany Democrat joked that if you truly wanted something independent, "I think we could get to the point where we have it drawn up by Canadians.”
COMING UP: Gov. Kathy Hochul will unveil her budget proposal on Tuesday, and the Buffalo Bills will advance to the second round of the playoffs after a very satisfying drubbing of Bill Belichick.
THE QUESTION: What’s the origin of the term “gerrymander”?
Know the answer? Drop me a line at email@example.com. Or just write with thoughts, feedback or to say hi.
THE LAST ANSWER: The last New York governor to be arraigned was William Sulzer, who was also the last governor to be impeached.