Your voice is needed to influence New York’s legislative district lines! Every 10 years, states redraw legislative districts based on the results of the census. New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission invites public input to help draw maps that are responsive to the community. 

Submit a community of interest map to the CCE’s map drive by Friday, Dec. 3, and be entered to win a $25 gift card! 

What is redistricting?

Redistricting is the process of drawing legislative district lines. This process takes place every 10 years, following the census. The census counts every person living in the United States. This data is used to redistribute the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives between the states. After the seats are reapportioned, states redraw the legislative lines to account for population changes. 

Redistricting takes place for Congressional legislative districts, state-level district lines and at the local level. Each state and local municipality has their own process for redistricting. The only redistricting rules at the federal level are that Congressional districts must have equal population sizes, and that lines cannot be drawn in a way that discriminates based on race (Voting Rights Act of 1965). All other rules are set at the state level, and vary from state to state. 

Why is redistricting important?

Redistricting is an important process because it influences the political power and representation of communities! The process can be manipulated in a way that consolidates power for certain groups while diluting the power of other groups. This practice is commonly known as “gerrymandering.” Because the redistricting process is often controlled by state legislatures, it can be easy to draw lines in a way that conserves political power for those already in power in that state. Even in states with more independent redistricting practices, like New York, public input is essential to drawing maps that are responsive to community needs. And because redistricting happens only every 10 years, unfair maps can impact the political environment for a long time. 

If you care about the power of your vote and the ability of your community to make its voice heard and influence policy issues you care about, you should care about redistricting!  

How does the process work in New York?

For the first time, an Independent Redistricting Commission leads New York’s redistricting process, with input from the public. This commission will draw maps for New York’s Congressional districts and state Assembly and Senate districts. Local districts are drawn by local municipalities. 

New York requires that districts be compact, contiguous, competitive and preserve communities of interest. Districts cannot intentionally favor or disfavor an incumbent, candidate or party.

The Commission will integrate public feedback to develop maps. These maps must be submitted to the state legislature in January. The legislature will vote on the maps, with a ⅔ majority required to pass. The governor may then accept or reject the maps. If maps are rejected, the Commission can draw one new set of maps. If these maps are also rejected, the legislature can redraw their own new maps. 

What are communities of interest?

A community of interest is a group with similar legislative and community interests that would benefit from shared political representation. Communities of interest may include groups with shared employment, environmental concerns (i.e. shared water systems), religious/faith communities, public transportation services, school districts, broadcast/media areas, and more! 

An example of a community of interest is Binghamton University students! 

How can students get involved?

Students can get involved by:

You can provide input to the Commission in a variety of ways. You might ask the Commission to change your current district maps or to keep them the same. You can provide general input about why a particular community of interest should be kept united in one district, or provide more specific testimony about an issue your community faces. You can provide feedback using the current maps, the proposed draft maps or simply provide general input on what you would like the maps to look like. 

Public hearings will be held in each of 14 regions across the state. The Southern Tier hearing will take place on at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25 in Symposium Hall at the Innovative Technologies Complex. 

How can I learn more? 

Visit the Commission’s website to view maps, provide comment, sign up for a public hearing and more. 

The New York “Redistricting & You” online map developed by the CUNY Graduate Center makes it easy to compare proposed districts with current congressional, state senate and assembly districts. The map features a slider tool so you can transition seamlessly between the proposed maps and current ones, providing a powerful interactive visual showing how the lines would change under the new plans.  

The League of Women Voters of New York State has useful resources and training materials.

Contact the Center for Civic Engagement to learn more!