New York adopts revised State Assembly districts

New York enacted new State Assembly district boundaries on April 24, 2023, when Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed legislation establishing them for use starting with the 2024 elections. The State Assembly passed the bill earlier that day by a vote of 132-13, and it passed the state Senate by a vote of 59-1. The New York State Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) had voted 9-1 on April 20, 2023, to advance this plan and submit it to the legislature. The Commission stated in its cover letter that the plan “garnered the highest number of votes in support” at its meeting on that date.

According to Giulia Heyward and Jon Campbell at Gothamist, the new districts replaced “a nearly identical set of districts that were just put into place for last year’s races before a court threw them out.” Heyward and Campbell also wrote, “The commission had originally put forward a draft that would have made considerable changes before settling on a revised proposal last week mirroring the lines already in place.” In the 2022 elections for state Assembly, Democrats won 102 districts, and Republicans won 48.

The state redrew its Assembly district boundaries in response to a 2022 decision by the New York Supreme Court appellate division in Nichols v. Hochul. That court upheld a lower court ruling declaring the state’s Assembly district boundaries invalid. However, it determined that the boundaries should still be used for the 2022 legislative elections since the lawsuit challenging them was filed too close to those elections for the courts to intervene. The appellate division ruling determined that the Assembly district map was enacted in violation of the state’s constitutional redistricting process and ordered a New York City-based state trial court to oversee the redrawing of boundaries for the 2024 elections. On September 29, 2022, that trial court directed the IRC to “initiate the constitutional process for amending the assembly district map based on the 2020 census data by formulating a proposed assembly map” and submit such a plan to the legislature by April 28, 2023.

The districts used for the 2022 elections remain in use until the next elections. The new districts adopted in 2023 will be used for state Assembly elections starting in 2024 until the state conducts redistricting after the 2030 census. The legislation’s language states that “Vacancies in the Assembly will be filled using existing boundaries until January 1, 2025, at which time vacancies will be filled using the new boundaries.”

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie supported the new districts, saying, “I think the [commission] listened to the testimony that was given to them throughout all of the hearings across the state, and I think they came back with a fair map.” Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union, criticized the new boundaries as too similar to the ones already in place: “The new Assembly districts approved by the Independent Redistricting Commission are strikingly similar to the districts drawn by the legislature last year…This similarity suggests that the Commission drew the Assembly maps to please lawmakers.” Citizens Union describes itself on its website as a group “committed to reforming New York City and State government by fostering transparency, accountability, accessibility, honesty and the highest ethical standards.”

Nichols v. Hochul began on May 15, 2022, when three New York residents sued in the New York State Supreme Court challenging the state’s enacted state Assembly maps arguing that the state failed “to Follow Constitutional Procedures for Redistricting Congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly District Maps.” The suit alleged that courts had already invalidated congressional and state Senate maps and that “This Court should enter judgment declaring that the 2022 State Assembly map violates the New York Constitution and is therefore void ab initio.” Kate Lisa at New York State of Politics wrote that the court ruled that “the Assembly maps were invalid because the Legislature drew its own lines after the state Independent Redistricting Commission failed to propose a second set of maps. The Legislature voted down the commission’s initial proposed lines after commissioners failed to reach consensus.”

New York had originally enacted new state legislative boundaries after the 2020 census on February 3, 2022, when Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed legislation that both legislative chambers had approved. The New York State Senate passed them 43-20, and the New York State Assembly passed them 120-27. The New York Independent Redistricting Commission had originally submitted two sets of maps to the legislature in January 2022 after it voted 5-5 on two separate map proposals. The legislature voted against both proposals on January 10, 2022, and the IRC announced on January 24, 2022, that it would not submit a second set of legislative maps to the state legislature for approval.

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