State lawmakers plan to approve new maps next Wednesday that will set legislative district lines for the next 10 years, both on the state and federal levels.

What You Need To Know

  • State lawmakers plan to vote Wednesday on new state and congressional district maps, which have not yet been released

  • To vote Wednesday, lawmakers must introduce bills no later than Sunday, unless Gov. Kathy Hochul issues an order of necessity

  • The design of congressional districts could help Democrats gain enough seats to maintain control of the House of Representatives

  • Lawmakers took control of the process after the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission missed this week’s deadline to submit a final set of maps

The once-in-a-decade process known as redistricting has national implications, as the design of congressional districts could help Democrats gain seats and maintain control of the House of Representatives.

But there’s one wrinkle: the maps haven’t been released. In order to vote Wednesday, lawmakers would have to introduce the legislation no later than Sunday, though Gov. Kathy Hochul could also issue an order of necessity waiving the three-day “aging” rule. In that scenario, the maps might not be introduced until shortly before Wednesday’s vote.

The reason for all the rush is a fast-approaching June primary.

“Actual voting is many months away,” said Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School, an expert on redistricting and election law. “But getting on the ballot requires signatures on petitions, and in order to do that, the candidate’s got to know where their districts are, so that they know whose signatures count. And people have got to know where their districts are so they know whether they want to run or not.”

Under a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2014, new district lines were to be drawn by an independent commission. But the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission was plagued by partisan infighting and missed this week’s deadline to submit a final revised set of maps. (Two initial sets of maps were rejected by the legislature.)

That punted the process to the Democratc-controlled legislature, which is now free to design districts that will suit members’ own political needs, a practice known as gerrymandering.

But Briffault notes the law does spell out certain criteria for designing districts.

“It’s going to be a partisan plan, inevitably,” he said. “But there may be some limits that the Constitution has now put on it, as to just how partisan it can be.”

Voter advocacy groups are disappointed at how things have played out. Fulvia Vargas-De Leon is associate counsel at Latino Justice, one of three advocacy groups representing minority communities that comprise the Unity Map Coalition.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to be in this position,” she said. “We’re exactly in the same position we were in 2011.”

Albany leaders seem unlikely to heed calls for a public hearing before a vote. But advocates hope they’ll at least consider the extensive public input gathered by the commission.

“These hearings went on for hours. People provided, like, thousands of comments and testimonies and maps,” Vargas-De Leon said.

“And if that’s disregarded,” she continued, “it’s just politicians over people, and that’s just the way that maps will continue to be drawn in New York.”