New York Democrats Introduce New Congressional Map

Washington, D.C. — The Democratic majority in New York’s state Legislature introduced a new congressional map that they’re hoping to pass as soon as possible.

The proposed map, which comes in the form of a bill introduced by Sen. Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D) in the Senate and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D) in the Assembly — in the late hours of Monday night — came after the Legislature rejected a map proposed by New York’s bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). Both houses of the Legislature voted to reject the IRC map, which would have given Democrats a slight overall advantage than in the congressional maps already in place. 

The map introduced by Gianaris and Zebrowski only has slight alterations from the IRC map. Per New York law, the Legislature is only allowed to alter each congressional district up to 2% from the previous iteration of the proposed map. However, the bill introduced Monday night includes language to “supersede” that rule. 

On Feb. 15, the IRC voted 9-1 to pass a new map, the result of a lengthy legal saga stemming from a lawsuit after the commission deadlocked in drawing a new map in January of 2022. The Legislature then stepped in and passed their own congressional map but the IRC was sued to “fulfill their constitutional duty” to come up with their own bipartisan congressional map.

Democrats in the Legislature weren’t happy with the IRC’s map. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D) said that the IRC’s map “run afoul of the constitutional guidelines that exist,” according to City & State New York.

The biggest change in the Legislature’s map is in New York’s 3rd Congressional District — the district currently held by Rep.-elect Tom Suozzi, who was elected in a special election to fill the seat vacated by disgraced former Rep. George Santos (R). The district would extend to parts of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties to the benefit of Democrats, according to Gothamist. Redistricting expert Dave Wasserman tweeted that the new map would also solidify the 18th Congressional District — currently represented by Rep. Pat Ryan (D) — as a safe Democratic seat, while making the Republican-held Congressional Districts 1, 19 and 22 better chances for a flip. 

The IRC’s map differed minimally from the congressional maps already in place but with a few material changes that benefit Democrats, mostly in the 22nd Congressional District in Syracuse and the 18th Congressional District in the Hudson Valley. “If passed, the net effect would be to diminish the competitiveness of New York’s map, with a very slight benefit to Democrats,” Wasserman told Democracy Docket at the time of the IRC vote. 

Wasserman called the Legislature’s map a “mild/moderate” gerrymander, but two redistricting experts disagreed. Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a Harvard law professor who studies the issue, called it “pretty much a model of neutrality,” according to the New York Times. In a follow-up email to Democracy Docket, Stephanopoulos said that the Legislature’s map is “virtually identical” and that it’s “close to perfect in its partisan neutrality.” Stephen Wolf, an elections staff writer at Daily Kos, tweeted that it’s “hardly the strong gerrymander many expected.”

In addition to the new map, the Senate also voted for a bill that changes the legal venue for redistricting cases. Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D) and in the Assembly by Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D), the bill allows redistricting cases to be brought up in only four counties: Albany, Erie, New York and Westchester counties.

The Legislature is expected to vote on the new map on Thursday, but Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) could step in to expedite the process. Candidates for the House started collecting signatures for petitions to run on Tuesday, but that process could be affected if the map isn’t quickly passed and signed into law, according to CNN. Hochul hasn’t made a formal announcement about what she’d do, but told reporters that she’s “anxious to have this chapter wrapped up as soon as possible.”

Read more about the IRC’s map here. 

Learn more about the lawsuit that led to the map redraw here.