New York's final congressional and Senate redistricting maps were released in Saturday's early hours, bringing the controversial process to a close and throwing the Democrats’ bid for widespread congressional wins into uncertainty.
The process in New York and other states has been under a microscope as Democrats seek to maintain their razor-thin margin in the U.S. House in a year when Republicans are expected to win big across the country.
New York’s Court of Appeals struck down New York’s Legislature-drawn maps last month, saying they amounted to a partisan gerrymander in favor of Democrats, and that lawmakers didn’t follow a predetermined independent redistricting process that voters greenlit in 2014.
The ruling sent the maps back to the drawing board, where one person, court-appointed special master Jonathan Cervas, set about rejiggering the districts. Steuben County judge Patrick McAllister had the final say on the maps – draft copies have been out for public review since Monday.
The final maps were largely similar to the draft copies, with a few key changes, based on feedback from communities and other stakeholders in recent days.
Some Democratic lawmakers and community members slammed the maps earlier in the week as sidelining diverse communities by dividing longstanding neighborhoods aligned by race or ethnicity, and reducing their congressional representation.
NY's highest court rules on maps: Court of Appeals strikes down NY's redistricting maps. What happens now?
What was the initial feedback from Democrats, residents?
“The draft redistricting map viciously targets historic Black representation in NY,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-Brooklyn, said Monday on Twitter. “The draft map is unacceptable, unconscionable & unconstitutional.”
The court, in a statement released with the final maps, said it adhered "to the instructions for treatment of minority groups as laid down in the New York State constitution."
The court received dozens of letters from around the state since Monday, many of them addressing the split of communities they see as having shared interests.
Long Island attorney Frederick Brewington disputed the exclusion of Westbury and New Cassel, both communities of color, from the 4th District in Cervas' proposed maps, saying in a letter to the court this week that the move placed the areas “with communities that share no political, life experience and social realities that shape the daily lives of its residents."
The court addressed that request in its statement, but said Westbury and New Cassel wouldn't be included in the 4th District, in order to maintain the district within the city line, according to court paperwork.
In the Hudson Valley, the special master’s splitting of Kingston into two congressional districts in his proposed maps also raised concerns about weakening the voting power of diverse voters.
The proposed map put much of the city of 24,000 in the 18th District, which takes in parts of Ulster and Dutchess counties and all of Orange. The rest of the city went to the 19th District, a sprawling, rural area that reaches from the Massachusetts border to the Finger Lakes.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat, argued in a letter to the judge the division violated a 2014 amendment to the state constitution that required redistricting to avoid disenfranchising minority populations.
“Splitting Kingston up and then separating part of it from other nearby diverse municipalities such as Ellenville, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh will, in effect, dilute the voices of communities of color throughout the Hudson Valley,” Cahill wrote.
In response, the court left Kingston intact in the final 18th District.
Which districts will see the most change?
The final maps amount to a major reshuffling of the Hudson Valley and Central New York from the Legislature’s originally approved maps.
The state was slated to lose one congressional seat this year, due to a lack of sufficient population growth in the 2020 Census. The state now has 26 total districts, and under the Legislature’s approved maps, Democrats would have had an advantage in 22 of them.
The court's final congressional map would make eight out of 26 districts competitive, according to court paperwork.
The 22nd District, encompassing the Syracuse area, now includes more rural eastern regions and the city of Utica and excludes Ithaca, a Democratic stronghold drawn into the district by the Legislature earlier this year.
It is currently represented by Republican Claudia Tenney, who announced early Saturday that she'd run in the newly formed 24th District, which stretches from Niagara County in the west, loops around Rochester and ends around Watertown to the northeast.
The 23rd District, in the Southern Tier, stretched along the southern border of the state, from the western tip near Erie, Pennsylvania to rural areas east of Syracuse, according to the Legislature maps. The final map chopped off the district's eastern end, leaving it instead to the 19th District.
The 19th has been one of the most geographically morphed districts throughout the redistricting process, first comprising regions of the Catskills and Hudson Valley, then extending into Central New York before finally, in Cervas’ final iteration, cutting into the Southern Tier instead.
Its shifting boundaries, along with those of the nearby 17th and 18th Districts, set up a wild scramble among area politicians to throw their hats in the ring for one of the three.
Bids for the 19th are complicated by the fact that its incumbent, Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, is soon to resign and be sworn-in as lieutenant governor in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan will face Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in a special election to serve out the rest of Delgado’s term.
That election has yet to be scheduled, but it could coincide with the Aug. 23 primary for congressional races. Ryan on Monday declared his candidacy in the proposed 18th District, which now includes Ulster County, where he lives. That could put Ryan in the unusual situation of running in two races in one day.
The question of residency will plague some candidates whose hometown communities have been drawn out of the newly formed districts. Representatives aren’t required to live in the districts they represent, but not doing so could create tension with residents questioning why candidates don’t live inside district boundaries.
In Manhattan, two prominent House Democrats, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Jerry Nadler, who currently hold districts on either side of Central Park, were drawn into the new 12th District, according to Cervas’ final maps. They have both said they will run in that district.
Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ Staten Island district, which would have included the liberal Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope in the Legislature's approved maps, was reconfigured to include only the Bensonhurst neighborhood in Brooklyn in the court's final maps.
To the north, Black, freshman progressive Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones were both drawn into the 16th District that comprises some of Westchester County and Yonkers.
Bowman, 46, criticized the proposed lines when they emerged, saying that the court-appointed special master diluted the strength of Black voters.
“These are communities who have been kept together in maps for decades for good reason and with good intention,” Bowman said. “Their voting power is directly tied to their lives and they deserve a fair chance at electing representatives that take their unique needs into full consideration.”
Bowman will run for the 16th, as well as Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi, a Democrat from Yorktown in northern Westchester.
Jones, who currently represents the 17th District encompassing Westchester and Rockland counties, said on Saturday that he would run in the new 10th District covering lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.
He joins a crowded primary field that includes — as of Friday morning — former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced his candidacy on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" talk show.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney's Putnam county home was redistricted out of the 18th District, leaving him in the 17th, which comprised an estimated 70% of Jones’ old district.
Maloney insisted that he was the only sitting member of Congress in the new 17th and would continue to represent the people in the district in which he lives.
"The 17th includes the Congressman’s home and half of the counties he has served for nearly a decade," said spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg earlier in the week. "Rep. Maloney has strong ties and longstanding relationships with leaders across the new 17th as it is largely composed of the same Hudson Valley communities he has always served during his time in Congress."
Assemblyman Mike Lawler, R-Pearl River, announced Saturday he would gather signatures to run in the 17th on the Republican line, opposing Maloney.
Includes reporting from The Journal News/Lohud.com reporter Eduardo Cuevas.
Sarah Taddeo is the New York State Team Editor for the USA Today Network. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: New York congressional, Senate redistricting maps released by court