New State Budget Funds Redistricting Commission

According to a release from the State Senate, the new state budget includes funds for the state’s redistricting commission and for other election related programs.The redistricting allocation was included in A.3001B/S.2501B.

From the Senate, the budget:

  • Provides $4 million for the expenses of the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). The IRC was established to determine the district lines for congressional and State legislative offices throughout New York State.
  • Provides $5 million for the State Board of Elections’ capital and implementation costs and $20 million for Local and New York City Boards of Elections for reimbursement of eligible costs related to the acquisition of software, technology upgrades, and new equipment.
  • Provides $2 million for reimbursement to Local Boards of Elections for staff costs related to expansion of early voting initiatives.

This legislation is awaiting passage in the State Assembly.

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Stephens Replaces Wofford On State Redistricting Commission

Assembly GOP Independent Redistricting Commission Keith Wofford is no longer serving as a member. He was replaced today with former Assemblyman Willis Stephens, Jr. A copy of the Stephens appointment letter from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay is attached

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How Many Congressional Seats Will New York Lose?

A link to my column appearing in New York Politics today can be found here. This column also ran in Kings County Politics Today and Queens County Politics today.

Here’s the column:

One of the major political questions this year is whether New York State will lose one or two congressional districts.

This is a tough question to answer because we might not know the results of the 2020 census until April 30 or even later. Even though federal law requires that state population totals be finalized by December 31 in the census year, the COVID pandemic has thrown the entire census-taking process for a curve. This delays not only conducting the headcount that took place last year, but also the tallying of census numbers that are used to allocate congressional districts among the states, redraw congressional, state legislative and city council district boundaries, and distribute billions of dollars in federal funds for hundreds of programs.

While the census counting process should have ended last July, it was extended until October to make up for lost time caused by the pandemic. On top of that, former President Donald Trump sought to speed up the census counting process to facilitate his political goal of excluding non-citizen immigrants (or as he called them, illegal aliens) from the state population totals. These totals are used to allocate congressional districts to the states. Trump fast-tracked the census counting process to try to ensure that he could control the final numbers before his term ended last month. He failed.

Trump never achieved his goal because the career professionals at the Census Bureau would not rush the process and get the count numbers to be as accurate as possible. In fact, as Trump’s political appointees tried to pressure the Bureau to hurry up and complete data reports on the number of undocumented immigrants in each state. The administrative records Trump wanted to use were sketchy and incomplete), the Census Bureau had to derail this effort because it was fraught with error.

One of President Joe Biden’s first acts in office was to reverse the previous administration’s effort to politicize the census. By executive order on his second day in office, Biden directed the Census Bureau to stop trying to identify undocumented immigrants so that they could be subtracted from the census counts used to apportion congressional districts among the 50 states. Instead, Biden directed the Census Bureau to follow over the constitution’s mandate to count and include “all inhabitants” and 200 years of precedents to include all residents, regardless of their citizen status, in the census counts.

Because of the Pandemic, the Census Bureau had to delay both the census enumeration process and the tallying of census results. Instead of providing the state population counts for congressional reapportionment by December 31, those numbers are now expected around April 30. Detailed local census data used to redraw congressional and state legislative district boundaries will be sent to states by September 30 instead of the usual April 1 deadline. 

These delays will also impact New York’s redistricting process. For the first time, the state’s congressional and state legislative districts will be initially redrawn by a commission appointed by the legislative leaders. This commission is tasked with developing plans by the end of the year, subject to approval by the legislature and the governor.  The commission will face the challenge of determining which congressional districts will be merged with others, necessitated by the loss of districts based on the census. The answer to the question of which seats will be lost isn’t likely to come until the end of the year.

Jeffrey M. Wice is an Adjunct Professor/Senior Fellow at New York Law School

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Redistricting Commission Rejects $1M In State Funding

Chris Bragg reports on Friday’s NYS Redistricting Commission’s rejection to be funded through a $1 million contract made between the NYS Department of State and the SUNY Foundation: “After months of pleading for funding, commissioners in charge of redrawing New York’s legislative and congressional districts received word last week that a contract granting $1 million for their efforts had been approved.

But at their first meeting since then, Democratic and Republican commissioners on Friday agreed that the language providing the $1 million was so unacceptable they would refuse to take it. A bipartisan group of the eight commissioners unanimously passed a motion stating they would not participate in the contract created for them by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration.”

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Redistricting Process May Change — Again

In the Post Journal, John Whittaker reports “last year, both houses of the state Legislature approved legislation changing the way the commission works.

The size of the state Senate would be fixed at 63 members in the state Constitution, preventing either party from simply increasing the size of the chamber to protect a majority. State residents who are in prison during a census will be counted at their place of residence, a change Democrats have wanted to make because Republicans, for years, counted downstate residents serving prison sentences upstate as upstate residents.

Another aspect of the 2014 legislation was protection of the minority party by requiring at least one appointee of the minority party to vote in favor of a redistricting plan. The new version of the legislation removes that stipulation.”

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Sen. Biaggi Calls For 2020 Census Extension

According to an article by Nick Reisman in State of Politics, “the U.S. Census’ 2020 head count should be extended by Congress to ensure a full survey of the public, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi on Monday said. 

The call for a Census extension comes amid concerns raised throughout last year of an undercount among people of color, immigrant communities and low-income neighborhoods. The process was made all the more complicated by the pandemic. 

At stake is nothing short of federal aid, all the more important as the state and nation seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The pandemic, in addition to former President Trump’s callous campaign to jeopardize the Census, has compromised the processing of the Census data – threatening the quality and accuracy of the count,” Biaggi said. “This is a major concern for all New Yorkers, but especially in the Bronx where our communities have been historically undercounted and need all the federal resources we can get to recover from the devastation wrought by COVID-19.”

Senator Biaggi’s request is well meaning but nearly something impossible to do, especially given the U.S. Constitutional mandate to reapportion the House of Representatives and the need for the Census Bureau, already behind schedule after the Pandemic Trump Administration effort to politicize the census, to provide states with granular data to redistrict state and congressional district lines in time to conduct timely 2022 elections.

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Will New York Lose 2 Congressional Districts?

According to a new report released today by Election Data Services, Inc.  (EDS), New York State may lose up to two congressional districts after the official state population totals are announced in January. 

The Census Bureau released state population estimates today based on the American Community Survey. EDS ran the statutory apportionment formula against the data and found that New York is on the “bubble” to lose either one or two congressional districts. Alabama would get the second seat if it should be lost by New York.  

The population estimates released today reflect numbers as of April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020. While April 1 is the date used as the “official” census date, delays caused by the COVID pandemic extended the census counting period and data estimates for July 1 were also provided. 

EDS estimates that New York would lose one congressional district if the congressional reapportionment is based on the April 1, 2020 estimated population. If the congressional reapportionment is based on July 1, 2020 estimates, New York would lose two districts. The second district would be lost to Alabama because New York came up short by 24,428 people. 

It must be kept in mind that these numbers are estimates and that the final official census data might differ. 

The EDS analysis also shows that 10 congressional districts are likely to shift between 17 state delegations using the estimates released today. 

Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon are each projected to each gain a single seat, while Florida would gain two districts and Texas would gain three. 

States projected to lose one each include Alabama (dependent upon data used), California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York (possibly two seats), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

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Judge Orders Partial Recount In Brindisi-Tenney House Race

In the Syracuse Post Standard, Mark Weiner reports that a “state Supreme Court judge today ordered election officials to review and possibly recount some of the hundreds of disputed absentee and affidavit ballots cast in the undecided House race between Rep. Anthony Brindisi and Claudia Tenney.

Justice Scott J. DelConte also denied a motion by Tenney’s lawyers, who had asked the court to order the eight counties in the district to certify her as the winner in an election where more than 318,000 ballots were cast.”

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Community Input Will Be Key to New York’s Redistricting Process, State Commissioners Say

In the New York Law Journal, Jane Wester covered New York Law School’s recent Redistricting Town Hall, writing “The coronavirus pandemic will likely complicate the timing of New York’s redistricting efforts ahead of the 2022 elections, but members of the commission charged with redrawing districts for the state’s U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate and State Assembly districts said Tuesday that 2020 census data is only part of what they have to consider.

Two members of the commission, which was created under a 2014 constitutional amendment that changed how redistricting will work in New York, participated in a town hall hosted by New York Law School on Tuesday.

Adjunct professor Jeffrey Wice, senior fellow at New York Law School Census and Redistricting Institute, explained that census data would normally be ready by April 1, 2021, but the pandemic means it might be delayed by months. The final deadline for the new district lines is early 2022, before petitioning starts for the 2022 elections, Wice said.”

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De Blasio Reups 2016 Board of Elections Reform Plan In 2020

Ethan Geringer-Sameth writes in the Gotham Gazette “In April 2016, just after party primary elections featuring a major error by the New York City Board of Elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would push for legislation in Albany to professionalize the day-to-day operations of the Board, among other bills that could improve the city’s perennially bungled election administration and create more access to the ballot box for New Yorkers. Over four years and several poorly-run elections later, de Blasio made a similar announcement this week, declaring support for a State Senate bill that was first introduced in 2017, along with other unspecified legislative fixes to the Board of Elections’ bi-partisan and patronage-driven model.”

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