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New York redistricting panel approves new congressional map with modest changes

This file photo shows the exterior of the New York state Capitol on Jan. 16, 2024, in Albany, New York.
Hans Pennink
Associated Press
This file photo shows the exterior of the New York state Capitol on Jan. 16, 2024, in Albany, New York.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's bipartisan redistricting commission approved a new congressional map Thursday that makes modest changes to three competitive districts but does not substantially change the rest of the state's lines.

The map proposal now moves to the Democrat-dominated Legislature, which can approve the plan or reject it and draw its own lines. It's unclear exactly when lawmakers would meet to vote on the commission's map.

New York's congressional redistricting process has been closely watched this year as suburban races in the state could have outsize influence on which party controls the House after the November elections.

The redistricting commission was tasked with coming up with new districts after the state's highest court in December threw out the map used in the 2022 elections. Democrats had sued to nix the old map after their party lost a handful of suburban seats in a series of bruising defeats that helped Republicans win a narrow House majority.

The panel's new map plan leaves the most of the current congressional districts largely in place, a move that could help head off legal challenges against the proposal. It also could act to sooth at least some concerns from Republicans that the new plan would leave them with a radically gerrymandered playing field for the fall.

The most major change appears to be in the upstate district currently held by Republican Rep. Brandon Williams. The commission would shift the district, which is situated over Syracuse, to include the cities of Auburn and Cortland.

The other big adjustments would be in the neighboring districts held by Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro and Democrat Rep. Pat Ryan. The plan would stretch Ryan's district north to include Woodstock, while Molinaro's district would expand to include sections of the state east of Albany.

The state's Independent Redistricting Commission was supposed to draw the districts used in 2022 but failed to reach a consensus, kicking the process to state lawmakers.

Democrats who control the Legislature then drew their own map, which was intended to give Democrats an edge by stuffing Republicans into a few super districts to dilute GOP voting power across the state. A lawsuit eventually stopped the Democrats' map from being used and a legal challenge delayed the congressional primaries.

The state's highest court then appointed an outside expert to come up with a map for 2022. Republicans performed well under those congressional lines, flipping seats in the New York City suburbs and winning a narrow House majority.

After the defeats, Democrats sued to throw out the 2022 map. The case eventually reached the state's high court, which in December ordered a new map to be drawn in a ruling that said the commission should have another chance to craft district lines.

This time around, the state's redistricting commission was able to reach a consensus on a map proposal, approving a plan that did not dramatically shift district lines in an apparent effort to avoid another legal challenge that could disrupt campaigning. The panel approved the map by a vote of 9-1 during a brief hearing in Albany.

The proposal leaves congressional boundaries on Long Island, where races are expected to be hotly contested, mostly unchanged, including the district formerly held by George Santos, who was expelled from Congress, and won this week by Democrat Tom Suozzi in a special election. New York City's lines also appeared largely unchanged.

"It was important for us not to enter into the process of confusing people out there over where they were going to vote," said redistricting commission Vice Chair Charles Nesbitt.

The Independent Redistricting Commission was created under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014. The panel is made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

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