Drawing the District lines in New York

Friday, July 23, 2021

The census count and the resulting redistricting occur every 10 years. Census counts provide information for redistricting. Representation in state and federal government is by district, and state officials are responsible for drawing the district lines for both state and congressional seats. Redistricting ensures that each district is approximately equal in population.

The 2020 Census count indicated that New York State did not grow as fast as some of the other states. The total population of NYS is 20,201,249. As a result, NYS lost one seat in the House of Representatives, and will have 26 seats instead of 27. New York City’s population is 8.8 million in the 2020 census, up by 7.7%. All boroughs in New York City grew, but Brooklyn grew most of all. Out of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, each state is entitled to at least one representative, no matter how small its population.

The State Senate has 63 seats, and there are 150 State Assembly seats. A NYS ballot proposal “Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process” would freeze the number of state senators at 63 and amend the process for counting the state’s population, among other items.

The Constitution allows states to determine their own way of drawing district borders. The 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits redistricting that discriminates based on race or language. In 2014, New York State voters approved a constitutional amendment to form the Independent Redistricting Commission as a way to create fair election districts and eliminate gerrymandered districts that have been drawn to manipulate votes by racial groups, political parties or voting blocks. Gerrymandering is not prohibited by the Constitution, except as described above, when used to manipulate boundaries by race or language.

The first round of the Independent Redistricting Commission’s hearings were held across the state earlier in the summer. The commission will release initial draft plans to the public by September 15th. There will be public hearings throughout the state in the fall to solicit input on the draft plans. There is still time to submit testimonies or maps to submissions@nyirc.gov; this should be done as soon as possible. By January 15, 2022, the IRC will present a proposal for redistricting to the NY State Legislature. The Legislature must approve the plan by a two-thirds vote in order to send it to the Governor for signature. If the Legislature wants to alter the plan, it must reject the plan twice.

2020 Redistricting Data is now available on the census website at census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/about/rdo/summary-files.html.