March 28, 2012

New York State Adopts Redistricting Plan

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Judges ordered New York State to adopt a federally drafted congressional redistricting plan on March 19. The new plan will eliminate two congressional districts, including the New York 22nd District, which currently contains Tompkins County.

In order to bring the state into compliance with federal law, a panel of three federal judges ordered the state legislature to adopt a plan drafted by Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann “in its entirety.”

Judge Mann’s plan, according to documents released by the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, eliminates two of New York’s current 29 congressional districts by splitting the 9th District, currently represented by Rep. Bob Turner (R – N.Y. 9), as well as breaking up the 22nd District — which encompasses Tompkins County — currently represented by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D – N.Y. 22).

After the 2010 Census, the United States Census Bureau determined that New York State would lose two seats in the House of Representatives due to smaller changes in population relative to the other 50 states, according to data from the Department of Commerce.

The elimination of the 22nd District will put Tompkins County in a newly formed 23rd District, which will stretch to Chautauqua County on the shore of Lake Erie. Most of this area is currently within the 29th District, which is represented by Rep. Tom Reed (R – NY 29).

The three members of the panel, Judges Reena Raggi and Gerard E. Lynch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Judge Dora L. Irizarry of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, stated in their decision that in previous years, the New York State legislature had been forced into action by the threat of federally created congressional districts.

“In the past, judicial creation of a congressional redistricting plan has spurred the New York legislature to produce its own plan just in time to avoid implementation of the judicial plan,” the judges wrote in their decision to adopt Mann’s plan.

In the decision, the judges noted that New York State was sued over redistricting after the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses and each time produced a satisfactory plan just in time. This year, however, according to Dan Lamb, district representative for Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D – N.Y. 22), the state primary elections have been moved to June 26, constricting the time available for political negotiations on redistricting as well as shortening the campaign season.

In a previous interview, Lamb told The Sun that “the delay [in redistricting] causes challenges for the candidates trying to get known in districts they hope to represent.”

The federal panel also noted that without a plan for new congressional districts, candidates cannot effectively campaign, thereby undermining the voter’s ability to select the best representative for their district.

Original Author: Matthew Rosenspire