May 24, 2022

Hochul says a review of New York’s redistricting process is needed

Acknowledging New York’s process of redrawing legislative boundaries for the U.S. Congress and state Legislature was once again a “messy” one, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signaled she wanted a review of how redistricting should potentially change once again in the state. 

“The process played out the way the law was written,” she said Tuesday. “Do we need to do this differently? Yes, we do. Every 10 years it’s always a mess. I know quite a bit about redistricting. I lost my seat in Congress.”

Photo: Special Master Jonathan Cervas

Voters in 2014 gave final approval to a constitutional amendment that altered New York’s once-a-decade redistricting process. The amendment was meant to take the power of the pen out of the hands of the Legislature and give authority to an appointed commission. 

But Republicans and Democrats this year failed to reach an agreement on new legislative boundaries. The deadlock led state lawmakers to take over the process and draw their own lines as well as the boundaries for the U.S. House districts in New York. 

New York’s top state court weeks later rejected the U.S. House and state Senate boundaries as unconstitutional. A special master, appointed by a judge in Steuben County, drew new lines, setting off a madcap dash by elected officials to run in newly drawn districts. Some lawmakers are running against their own colleagues in party primaries. 

“It didn’t have a remedy if the Republicans and Democrats didn’t properly come together and find a middle ground,” Hochul said of the commission-oriented process. “Perhaps that was asking too much, but that’s what the law was.”

Good-government organizations and some Democratic lawmakers have indicated they want a new amendment to revise redistricting. Hochul indicated she wants a “very serious look” at other states’ models and best practices. 

“What went wrong here in the state of New York that led to the ceding of power to certain judges who had a tremendous amount of power in this?” she said “Is that the way people want it to be?” 

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