The NYS Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) has issued its proposed NYS Assembly and Senate maps. The maps, widely viewed as contorted, have joined criticism from all across the state. The shapes of some districts, the elimination of others, a 63rd Senate district, and the placement of sitting legislators in the same district have inspired citizens to attend public hearings and at least one rally in protest.
LATFOR is controlled by Senate Republicans and a Democratic Assembly. The Senate Republicans decided to place a 63rd Democratic Senate seat in the Capital region near Albany, instead of in New York City where there has been an increase in population over the past 10 years. That proposed Capital region Senate seat is being challenged because it is viewed as a ploy for Senate Republications to retain their 32-29 seat majority despite a decline in population upstate.
The proposed maps are also viewed as shortchanging NYC because Senate districts in the city are more than 3% larger than the average district size. Every district what the Westchester however, is more than 4.5% smaller than the average sized district. With such a wide spread in population size per district, the average Senate vote by cast upstate weighs 7.3% more than the average vote in New York City and surrounding regions.
There are some notable features of the GOP Senate proposal. The district formerly held by disgraced indicted former Sen. Carl Kruger has been eliminated. That district, covering Brighton Beach, Bergen Beach, and Mill Basin, would be split between State Senators John Sampson (D) and Marty Golden (R). New York City Councilman Lew Fidler and Brighton Beach attorney David Storobin are currently campaigning for Kruger’s seat and vowed to continue to do so even though the seat may be eliminated by year’s end.
State Sen. Eric Adams home was drawn out of his district by one block and placed in Sen. Velmanette Montgomery’s district, leaving Adams district with no incumbent. State Sen. Kevin Parker’s district has been pushed into Park Slope. The Borough Park and Midwood sections of Parker’s district have been formed into a new district that would concentrate Orthodox and Russian Jewish votes while creating a new Republican seat for those conservative voters.
The senate district currently held by Diane’s Savino is one of the LATFOR’s most oddly drawn districts. It would retain a large segment of Staten Island’s North Shore plus two separate pieces in Brooklyn. This district would most certainly be challenged because the NYS Constitution mandates that districts should be “compact” and consist of “contiguous territory.” Districts “shall contain as nearly as may be an equal number of inhabitants.”
For senate districts in Queens currently held by Democrats would be merged into two, pitting incumbents Michael Gianaris against Jose Peralta and Toby Ann Stavisky against first-term Tony Avella. The merger of Stavisky’s and Avella’s districts was purportedly done in order to create an Asian- majority district in Flushing.
LATFOR’s plan would create three Asian-majority districts – two in Queens and one in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn.
LATFOR has been holding public hearings on the proposed maps this week in every NYC borough and next week at various other locations around the state.
Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to veto any “partisan” redistricting proposal, it remains to be seen if he will veto or negotiate with the legislature. A veto would take the matter out of legislator’s hands and place it in the courts.
Senate Democrats have already filed suit challenging the GOP increase of seats from 62 to 63 and the placement of that seat of state rather than in New York City that grew faster than any other part of the state. There are also lawsuits currently in the courts challenging the time delay in New York State’s redistricting process.
LATFOR is scheduled to issue NYC Congressional maps in March which will add tension to an already contentious process because the state is losing two congressional seats.
Last week U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe ruled that New York State Congressional primary will be held on June 26. The new date will have New York State in compliance with the federal military and overseas voter empowerment act, ensuring that absentee ballots from overseas military personnel will be sent and received in time. The law requires that ballots be sent out no less than 45 days before a general election for a federal position. Ballots for a primary to determine which candidates will be on that ballot must be sent 35 days before that deadline.
The federal ruling does not apply to New York’s state legislative primaries which are generally scheduled for the second Tuesday in September. The Republican presidential primary must take place on April 24. While assembly Democrats recommended the June 26 primary date, Senate Republicans are feeling pressure to hold the state legislative primary on the same date as the congressional primary as a cost-saving measure. Primaries for state offices are currently scheduled for September 11.