State lawmakers on Sunday took a significant step in the redistricting process, releasing proposed congressional district boundaries that could have wider implications for which party controls the House of Representatives this time next year.
The changes for the House of Representatives could be voted on as early as Wednesday.
Some of the changes based on the bill language appear to give some battleground Democrats an edge to the detriment of incumbent Republicans.
For example, a Hudson Valley seat representated by two-term incumbent Antonio Delgado has been redrawn northward to include parts of Albany County as well as Utica and Binghamton.
This could pose a major challenge to Republican incumbent Claudia Tenney, as well as Delgado's Republican challenger, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
Bill language shows Tenney and Delgado having been drawn into the same House district (living in a House district is not a requirement until taking office). But Tenney's district, in essence, is being split multiple ways, making it the biggest and clearest causalty of redistricting.
Similarly, Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island's district appears to be receiving more of Brooklyn. Malliotakis is the sole GOP representative from New York City.
A new district that includes all of Onondaga County, where retiring Republican Rep. John Katko lives, will also include Democratic-heavy Tompkins County.
There are multiple political crosscurrents for the once-a-decade redistricting process this year. New York is losing a seat in the House due to its stagnate population. A commission, created as a reform through a constitutional amendment aimed at removing the redistricting process from the state Legislature, failed to reach an agreement on what the maps for the House and state legislative chambers should look like.
At the same time, Democrats nationally are fighting to retain control of the House of Representatives, where the party currently has a razor-thin majority. New York is home to multiple battleground House seats under its current composition of districts.
So a slightly more favorable Democratic-drawn district -- or several -- in New York state could help tilt the balance of control.
Gerrymandering -- the act of drawing district lines by lawmakers that maximize their advantages and in effect helping them choose their own voters -- has been a bipartisan act in Albany over the years. For decades, Republicans, who control the state Senate and majority Democrats in the state Assembly, were empowered to draw their own district lines.
In 2012, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for a change to the process under pressure from good-government advocates. The passage of a constitutional amendment altering the process and putting it in the hands of a commission appointed by lawmakers was approved.
But the commission-drawn maps by Republican and Democratic-leaning lawmakers this month was rejected by the state
Democratic leaders like state party Chairman Jay Jacobs have said they do not want to unilaterally disarm in the effort to secure more favorable seats. In Albany, top Democratic leaders have said they will draw fair lines and release them in a timely fashion.
Good-government organizations had urged lawmakers to be transparent with the map-drawing process as well as timely.