The North Country is a more unified political landscape under a Congressional redistricting plan enacted March 19.
With the opening date for federal candidates to start petitioning for the June 26 primary in New York, a panel of U.S. judges took hold of the congressional redistricting process, turning the North Country into an unbroken region from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario March 19.
The district, represented by Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh), will change designation from 23 to 21, as declining state population reduces overall representation districts in New York from 29 to 27. Over the past three decades, the state's lost a dozen seats in the U.S. Congress.
On the old map, Essex County was split down the middle with District 20, represented by Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook). It's now unified.
The district also gains the northern half of Herkimer, all of Warren and Washington, a chunk of Fulton and most of Saratoga counties.
Part of creating the smooth delineation across the north of New York means the district loses Oswego, Madison and its portion of Oneida counties.
“I’m sorry to be losing Oswego, Madison and Oneida counties. I’ve made a lot of good friends there and I will continue to represent them through the end of the year,” said Owens. “I look forward to getting to know the hard-working families in the new parts of the district and begin a discussion on the issues that matter most to them.”
Roanne L. Mann, the U.S. magistrate judge tasked with preparing a report and recommendation for redistricting, was highly critical of the state's failure to produce it's own plan.
“Faced yet again with a dysfunctional state legislature,” wrote Mann, “the federal judiciary in New York must now undertake the 'unwelcome obligation' of creating a plan redrawing the State’s electoral districts for the United States Congress.”
Mann noted that this is the third time the court has had to build a redistricting plan while the legislature dragged its feet before deadline. As censuses were recounted in the '90s, '00s and this decade, the state's population has dropped and with it the number of representatives seated in the U.S. Congress.
With fewer representatives comes fewer election districts, so lines must be redrawn to hold roughly the same-sized populations in their borders throughout the state. The New York Legislature has made the last-minute deadlines in the previous two revisions, keeping the court's plan from being enacted.
This year, though, after a judge ruled the federal primary in the state had to be moved to June 26 to comply with absentee voting requirements, the date for primary petitions was moved to March 20. A plan had to be in place by then so the next election cycle could unfold in agreement with the new number of house representatives for the state.
The panel of three judges of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York noted in their order to the state that it took two weeks for magistrate and her redistricting expert assistant Dr. Nathaniel Persily to do what New York legislators didn't do in a year.
The state legislature still has the power to create its own redistricting map and implement it, but there are currently no plans to revisit the congressional districts in the state legislature, according to State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' press office.