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Why redistricting matters and where we are in the process

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Posted at 12:06 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 18:26:17-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — D.M. Touhie doesn’t follow politics that closely. But, the University at Buffalo student is concerned New York will have one less congressional seat at the table in Washington.

“That’s scary because in terms of a voice, it will have a really bad impact.”

New York lost a seat after census data showed the state’s population shrunk slightly.

But, how the new district lines will be drawn has yet to be determined.

For the first time in state history, an Independent Redistricting Commission is expected to redraw the lines of state legislative and congressional districts.

The purpose is to keep districts the same size, population wise, so it doesn’t dilute the votes. The concern is that technology allows for gerrymandered districts, meaning districts that favor one political party over another.

The Commission’s goal is to prevent gerrymandered districts from happening, and there’s already debate about whether the commission can do its job. Last month, it released two proposed maps instead of one.

“There’s no reason these commissioners can’t get into a room and come up with an agreed upon compromise fair map that will represent all the voters across the state of NY,” said Senate Minority Leader Robbert Ortt.

According to the Commission’s Democratic Co-Executive Director Karen Blatt, other state commissions, like Virginia for example, have come up with two. She said it’s not reflective of the process. “The Constitution doesn’t specify how many sets of maps are to be released whether it’s one set or several sets,” explained Blatt.

Political Science Experts said redistricting may fall back into the hands of elected officials.

“The Commission was put in place by a Constitution amendment that the voters approved a few years ago. But, because democrats have such a majority, if they want to, they really don’t have to go by that Commission,” said University at Buffalo Political Science Assistant Professor, Shawn Donahue. “What we have now is a unified democratic legislature. So, presumably they would draw districts to their advantage,” he added.

So far though. the Commission remains in control of the process. Blatt said they’re counting on public hearing taking place across the state over the next month to help the Commissioners revise and compromise on one map.

Buffalo Meeting Information

Wednesday, October 20

Burchfield Penney Art Center

4PM

Attendees must sign up by 4:00 p.m. on October 18. Click here for more information.