Partisan and racial gerrymandering distorts and undermines representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters rather than voters to select their officials. When done for purposes of racial discrimination or to ensure the dominance of one political party, or even to ensure the election of a specific legislator, gerrymandering runs counter to equal voting rights for all. (LWV US)
Our local league advocates for fair political maps for all elected offices. We oppose partisan and racial gerrymandering that dilutes the influence of some voters and over-weights the influence of others. We believe voters should choose their elected representatives rather than having representatives choose voters. We are aligned with the LWVUS and LWVNYS, which have been active in supporting fair apportionment for more than half a century. (See the LWVNYS apportionment position here. LWVUS apportionment & Redistricting position here, p.34-38/link) Briefly, the US position tells us:
[We] Support redistricting processes and enforceable standards that promote fair and effective representation at all levels of government with maximum opportunity for public participation.
(p.11, LWVUS Impact on Issues, 2022-24)
The New York State Appellate Division rendered an opinion in Hoffmann vs. New York State Independent Redistricting Commission (6/28/23) which reopened the possibility of new Congressional districts for New York for the 2024 election cycle. You can view the decision here: https://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2023/CV-22-2265.pdf
Under Hoffmann, it appears that the New York State Legislature will once again be involved in the Congressional redistricting process. It’s unknown as of yet whether the IRC will hold another round of public hearings. And it is expected that Republicans will appeal the Hoffmann decision, as they’re concerned the New York State Legislature may again attempt to tilt the final Congressional district plan in favor of Democrats.
The Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) had been constitutionally tasked with drawing new Congressional, New York State Senate and Assembly districts after the 2020 Census which would then be submitted to the New York State Legislature for approval. At the start of 2022, the IRC abandoned its efforts announcing that it was unable to reach a bipartisan consensus needed for the approval of any proposed district plans. The Democratically controlled New York State Legislature then drew and passed its own district maps.
In response, Republicans filed the Harkenrider vs. Hochul (Feb 2022)lawsuit, alleging that the Democratic controlled New York State Legislature gerrymandered the enacted districts and failed to follow the Constitutional process for redistricting. The League of Women Voters of New York filed an amicus brief in support of the Republicans position in Harkenrider.
The New York Court of Appeals (April 27, 2022) invalidated the New York State Legislature’s Congressional district plans, among other findings, and ordered the trial court to appoint a nonpartisan special master to draw a new Congressional district plan. The special master’s Congressional district plan was used for the 2022 elections of New York’s members of the House of Representatives.
The Hoffmann suit was filed by Democrats (in June 2022) who were dissatisfied that a special master drew New York’s Congressional districts and argued that the special master’s Congressional district plans did not follow New York’s constitutional process for redistricting.
On June 28, 2023, the Hoffmann court found that the state Constitutional process was, indeed, not followed because the IRC never delivered a second district plan to the Legislature and instructs the IRC to do so now.
13July23 by Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, provides a summary and addresses national ramifications of the decision:
Recommended as “an excellent and balanced review” by the LWV of NYS Issues and Advocacy Team: an article in Democracy Docket (7/13/23, Madeleine Greenberg) New York Court Orders Redraw of Congressional Map. How Did We Get Here?
A new redistricting commission for Nassau County Legislative Districts began work in August 2022. The Nassau County and PWM Leagues have provided testimony and comment:
September 8 Hearing at Town of North Hempstead Town Hall:
Regina Goutevenier testimony on behalf of LWV of Nassau County
Regina Goutevenier video of testimony
Judy Esterquest testimony on behalf of LWV of PWM
Judy Esterquest video of testimony
August 31 hearing before the Commission
Karen Moskowitz for LWV of Nassau County
In 2020 PWM members began attending training in redistricting — what it is, what value our League can offer our communities — and have continued training through 2021. Members of the Nassau County Legislature Independent Redistricting Commission (NYIRC.gov) were named in January and February of 2021.
Beginning in early 2021, our PWM members met monthly via Zoom, under the leadership of a PWM member, with members of the Nassau County ILO. Working with Nassau County League members in broad outreach to residents across Nassau County and seeking to build meaningful partnerships, our task force encouraged the participation of “Communities of Interest.”
While engaging with dozens of local community groups, we organized educational presentations for members of the public and league members. At these events, we encouraged individuals and groups to submit written and oral testimony at hearings held in the summer by NYIRC. You can review some of our events and testimony here:
Since Spring 2021, our community engagement has included training on the “People-Powered Fair Maps,” software developed by the LWV US so ordinary citizens can offer more informed recommendations about drawing district boundaries. League members and the public across NYS and within Nassau County use these maps to inform testimony to the NYIRC. (Links to some of this training are below.) Throughout the summer of 2021, residents and groups used PPFM to explore designing districts, some of which can be seen in the written testimony (see links above.)
In mid-September, the NYIRC, rather than releasing one set of maps (as required by the 2015 Amendment to the NYS Constitution), released two sets of maps, each supported by a partisan subset of the NYIRC. The LWV NY translated these into more user-friendly software (Google maps) and released them shortly thereafter. This first set of maps is available here.
The NYIRC then scheduled 14 additional public hearings around NYS, including hearings for Nassau residents on November 22, 2021.
Final maps were to be submitted by the Commission to the NYS Legislature in January 2022, at which time the Legislature would have final control over accepting, rejecting, and/or redrawing district lines. Unfortunately, the IRC submitted two sets of partisan maps rather than — as their mission directed — one set of nonpartisan (compromise) maps. The LWVNY, along with two Good Government allies (Reinvent Albany and Citizens Union) issued a press release and sent a letter to the IRC, decrying the IRC “dereliction of duty.”
Subsequently, the NYS Legislature rejected the IRC’s work and gave it another opportunity to accomplish its mission. PWM will continue to monitor developments and will advocate in line with LWVNY.
Our State League has provided a wealth of training, tools, and education over the past year, available at LWVNY.org Redistricting — including
The League has also joined with non-partisan coalition partners to make recommendations
According to federal law, redistricting (the redrawing of election district maps) must take place every ten years as a result of new census data.
A 2014 NYS constitutional amendment created an independent redistricting commission to draw state and federal election districts within the state. The amendment required that the commission “shall represent the diversity of residents of the state with regard to: race, ethnicity, gender, language and geographic reference.” Gerrymandering is often thought of as separating voters by their party registration, but more often divides the influence of “communities of interest,” to dilute the political influence of groups that share affinities based on demographics or common interests.
To learn more about what the League’s positions on redistricting, gerrymandering and more, please visit nyredistricting.org for videos and other resources.
For a broader overview, please visit the national League site on redistricting.
We will be working on this into 2023 as NYS and Federal district maps are finalized in for the 2022 Primary elections in June and then the General elections in November. Maps for towns and villages will be required for 2023 elections.