Photo: Sam Balye / Unsplash

This week, our politics reporter, Felipe De La Hoz, helps us understand what’s going on with NYC’s redistricting. Make sure you read next Thursday’s newsletter for a deeper dive into the topic. 

To understand what’s happening now with the redrawn state and federal district maps, we have to look back to 2014, when New York voters approved a constitutional amendment that created something known as the Independent Redistricting Commission. The IRC had a simple task: following the next census, the commission would be tasked with taking the data and using it to redraw districts in a way that was fair and equitable.

The idea was that this would prevent the drawing of gerrymandered districts of the sort that many GOP legislatures had become infamous for creating—districts tailored to maintain a political advantage, not so much to allow voters a full suite of electoral options. This would be achieved by having four commissioners appointed by each of the two major parties, while the remaining two would be appointed by the first eight, in theory ensuring a balance of political viewpoints.

For several years, the IRC generated little public attention, as the districts only got redrawn following the census, which didn’t happen until 2020. In a predictable turn of events, an equal number of commissioners ended up being appointed by both parties  resulting in a deadlock, and the IRC had bitter, internecine, public fights over its maps, to the point that commissioners were unable to agree on maps and instead presented two versions to the legislature, which ultimately rejected them both and drew its own districts, bringing us to today.

The IRC ultimately was a long and pointless detour on the way to the legislature just drawing the new districts anyway, and these new maps have driven plenty of controversy in their clear attempt to produce a Democratic electoral advantage. To that effect, the redrawing of the 11th Congressional district, currently held by GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, is not so much an attempt to have Park Slope represented by a Republican as it is to have Staten Island represented by a Democrat, a much more likely outcome now that the district has added heavily Democratic areas.

Felipe De La Hoz is an immigration-focused journalist who has written investigative and analytic articles, explainers, essays, and columns for the New Republic, The Washington Post, New York Mag, Slate,...

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