Dems in Independent Redistricting Commission pass baton to Dem Legislature

New York NY Puzzle Pieces Map Working Together 3d Illustration
New York NY Puzzle Pieces Map Working Together 3d Illustration. Stock from 123rf

Democrats on New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) on Jan. 24 washed their hands of the alleged bipartisan panel a day before it was to submit redrawn congressional boundaries to state lawmakers.

In passing the baton to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Republicans will all be locked out of the reapportionment process, giving the blue party a free hand to redraw state and congressional districts to their partisan liking. Democrats said they had no other choice because the Republican members wouldn’t budge on working out a deal. 

“We have negotiated with our Republican colleagues in good faith for two years to achieve a single consensus plan. At every step, they have refused to agree to a compromise,” the commission’s Democratic members said in a statement they released Monday morning.

While the IRC Democrats blamed the IRC Republicans for failing to compromise on a reapportionment map, the IRC Republican members said the statement made little sense.

“We are very disappointed to read a statement from our colleagues and the disingenuous accusations lodged toward half of this commission. We have worked diligently for the better part of two years to create a redistricting plan that removes years of gerrymandering by the State Legislature.  The Democrat-appointed commissioners have no incentive to work cooperatively toward a consensus plan and, in fact, they purposely scuttled the process so that the determination of district lines would be tossed back to a legislature controlled by Democrat super-majorities,” the GOP panelists said in a statement. 

The IRC, established in a referendum by voters in 2014, is comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, with two additional members who aren’t members of the two largest political parties, but who are each voting with the partisan appointees. They sent two competing redistricting maps to the legislature for approval several weeks ago, who then sent the matter back to the IRC with a deadline to come up with a new map by tomorrow.

“For the Democrat-appointed commissioners to claim that the Republican-appointed commissioners are [intentionally] ‘running out the clock to avoid a vote’ for some reason, is both factually incorrect and illogical.  Given the current political environment in New York, the only way Republicans could have any say in redistricting would be through the bipartisan negotiations anticipated by the framers. For this reason, the Republican-appointed commissioners stood ready, willing, and able to meet, negotiate and compromise,” they added.

Blair Horner, executive director for the nonpartisan New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), said the result of the IRC was long expected.

“It’s bad news for New York that the political parties can come together and it’s not surprising. We complained about this 10 years ago that the model was set up for gridlock. And that’s what happened,” Horner said.

The Legislature now must act quickly to have a new redistricting map in place some time next month before petitioning for the Spring primary gets underway on March 1.