Congressional redistricting plans released by federal magistrate judge Roanne Mann on Monday would put Tompkins County in a district stretching to Chautauqua County on the shore of Lake Erie, according to documents released by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The new plans are the result of a lawsuit against the state legislature by a group of voter advocates for not completing the redistricting process in a timely manner. Unless the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly are able to reconcile their conflicting plans, Mann’s new map will be binding, according to the documents.
If the Senate and Assembly fail to reach an agreement before the June primaries, Mann’s redistricting plan will place Tompkins County in a newly formed 23rd District.
Mann’s plan, however, along with the rest of the redistricting process, has been met with strong disapproval from Congressional candidates such as Dan Lamb.
Lamb, worked for Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y. 22) for 14 years, is running to replace Hinchey, who is retiring, in November.
“Most states have completed this process by now; New York has not,” Lamb said. “This is causing problems because Congressional primaries are on June 26 and we don’t have district maps.”
Lamb also said that such a delay is not unusual for New York’s state legislature.
“New York has a history of waiting until the very last moment; we’ve seen this in past years, and I’m not surprised,” he said. “I thought the impending earlier primary — they’re normally in September — would encourage the legislature to act quicker, though.”
According to Lamb, the drawn-out process causes serious problems for all candidates, especially those who are trying to become more known in the districts they hope to represent.
For Lamb, however, the delay is a much less serious issue than Mann’s new map.
Unlike the plans from the State Senate and Assembly, which propose merging Tompkins County with Onondaga County, and therefore the Democratic stronghold of Syracuse, Mann’s plan puts Tompkins County in a heavily Republican district.
“The magistrate judge’s maps are drawn to favor Republican incumbents right now,” Lamb said. “I had hoped that any map drawn would actually create competitive districts.”
Lamb said he was also pessimistic about the Senate and Assembly’s plans.
“I don’t think the Senate and Assembly plans can be reconciled right now; they were just statements to begin negotiations on,” he said.
Depending on which redistricting plan becomes law, Lamb’s potential opponents for the Tompkins County seat would be Rep. Ann Buerkle (R-N.Y. 25) or Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y. 29).
Tompkins County Democratic Committee Chair Irene Stein told The Sun last week that she believes Buerkle will face a difficult campaign for re-election against any Democratic candidate, calling Buerkle’s policies “anti-middle class.”
Ithaca attorney Leslie Danks Burke, also seeking the Democratic nomination to the Tompkins County seat, said in a press release Tuesday that uncertainty about redistricting has not dissuaded her from pursuing her candidacy.
“I am pleased that the redistricting process is moving toward a conclusion,” Burke said. “While there is still uncertainty regarding the final district lines, there is not uncertainty about my commitment to run for the people of New York. This region can’t afford to lose a Democratic seat at the table.”