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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

As of 2014, New York’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by an independent commission, subject to modification by a supermajority of the state legislature.  The ten members of the independent commission have been appointed; one of the commissioners has sued the state over the commission’s staffing and funding.

In 2020, the legislature passed a proposed constitutional amendment (S.8833), which would become law if it were passed by the legislature in 2021 and then approved by voters in Nov. 2021.  The proposal would change the redistricting process in several ways, including constitutionalizing current statutory adjustments to the incarcerated populaton, and modifying the commission’s timing.  The most significant changes would be to the commission’s voting rules, and to the voting rules of the legislature in approving or modifying a commission proposal.

In the 2010 cycle, New York’s legislature had responsibility for drawing the lines.  The legislature did not agree on a congressional plan; on Mar. 19, 2012, a federal court drew congressional maps instead.  The legislature did pass a state legislative plan (S.6696/A.9525) on Mar. 15, 2012, which was signed by the governor on the same day. On Mar. 21, 2012, the legislature passed technical corrections (S.6755) that were signed on Mar. 27, 2012.  The Senate plan was precleared on Apr. 27, 2012; the Assembly plan was precleared on May 18.

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
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  Lower House:
  Governor:

Key Info for 2000 Cycle

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Primary governing law

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

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Primary governing law

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Mar 5, 2021
One of New York's commissioners has sued the state over staffing and funding for the independent commission.
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Institution

As of 2014, New York’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn primarily by a 10-person independent commission, at least in the first instance.  Each of the four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative chamber) chooses 2 commissioners; those 8 commissioners choose 2 others who have not been registered Democrats or Republicans for the last 5 years.  No commissioner may have been, within three years prior to appointment, a state official, employee, or party chair, member of Congress, New York lobbyist, or the spouse of a statewide elected official or federal or state legislator.  Members of the commission should reflect the diversity of New York residents “with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, language, and geographic residence,” to the extent practicable.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, §§ 4(b), 5-b(a)-(c)]

The ten current commissioners are listed here.

Voting rules are based on political party control of the legislature.  When the state Senate and Assembly are controlled by the same party — as they will be in 2021 and 2022 — commission approval of a map requires 7 votes, including one commissioner appointed by each legislative leader.  If no map reaches this threshold, the commission will forward to the legislature the map with the most support on the commission. [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 5-b(f)-(g)]

The legislature has two opportunities to accept or reject commission recommendations without modification — with voting rules based on party control as well.  When the state Senate and Assembly are controlled by the same party, votes to approve a map must get 2/3 support in each chamber.  After rejecting two commission maps, the legislature may substitute its own amended map: it is likely that the law requires a 2/3 majority for this final map as well, though there is some ambiguity about whether this third substitute requires only a regular simple majority.  By statute, amendments may not modify a commission map by more than 2% of any district’s population.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(b); 2012 N.Y. Sess. L. ch. 17 (S6736), § 3]

New York state trial courts have jurisdiction to review challenges to state legislative lines filed in state court; the courts must render a decision within sixty days after a petition is filed.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 5]

Timing

The commission must submit congressional and state legislative maps to the legislature no later than Jan. 15, 2022.  If that plan is not accepted by the legislature, the commission must submit new maps within 15 days of the rejection, and no later than Feb. 28, 2022.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(b)]  Candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by Apr. 7, 2022. [N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 6-158(1), 8-100(1)]

The New York constitution prohibits redrawing congressional and state legislative lines mid-decade, before the next Census. [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(e)]

Public input

State law requires the commission to conduct hearings on proposed plans in Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and White Plains, in each of the five boroughs of New York City, and in each of the counties of Long Island.  The commission must make its draft plans and data publicly available at least 30 days before the first hearing, and no later than Sept. 15, 2021.   [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(c)]

Criteria

Like all states, New York must comply with constitutional equal population requirements; the New York constitution further provides that districts should contain an equal number of inhabitants, “as nearly as may be” “to the extent practicable.”  The commission must provide a specific explanation for any district that deviates from this requirement, and deviations will not be lawful at all if established for impermissible reasons.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(c)(2); Rodriguez v. Pataki, 308 F.Supp.2d 346, 363 (2004), aff’d 543 U.S. 997; In re Orans, 15 N.Y.2d 339 (1965)]  New York will adjust census data for state legislative districts in order to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residence before incarceration.  [N.Y. Legis. L. § 83-M(13)(b)]

New York must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.  State law also independently prohibits drawn with the purpose or result of denying or abridging racial or language minority voting rights, and requires that districts be drawn so that racial or minority language groups do not have less opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(c)(1)]

New York law also requires that congressional and state legislative districts be continguous and as compact in form “as practicable,” and the commission must consider maintaining the cores of existing districts, preserving counties, cities, and towns, and protecting communities of interest.  Districts may not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring candidates or parties.  [N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(c)(3)-(6)]

2010 cycle

In the 2010 cycle, Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), and New York (Manhattan) counties were subject to preclearance under the federal Voting Rights Act.

New York’s legislature did not agree on a congressional plan, and so the process turned to the courts.  A federal court drew congressional maps on Mar. 19, 2012.  [Favors v. Cuomo, No. 1:11-cv-05632, 2012 WL 928223 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2012)]

The legislature did pass a state legislative plan (S.6696/A.9525) on Mar. 15, 2012, which was signed by the governor on the same day. On Mar. 21, 2012, the legislature passed technical corrections (S.6755) that were signed on Mar. 27, 2012.  The Senate plan was precleared on Apr. 27, 2012; the Assembly plan was precleared on May 18, 2012.

The state Senate and Assembly maps were both challenged in court; both were upheld.  [Favors v. Cuomo, No. 1:11-cv-05632, 2014 WL 2154871 (E.D.N.Y. May 22, 2014); Cohen v. Cuomo, 969 N.E.2d 754 (N.Y. 2012); Little v. N.Y. State Task Force on Demographic Research and Apportionment, No. 2310-2011 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Albany Cnty. Dec. 1, 2011)]

Materials are available here; maps are available here.

2000 cycle

In the 2000 cycle, Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), and New York (Manhattan) counties were subject to preclearance under the federal Voting Rights Act.

New York’s legislature enacted a congressional plan (S.7536), which was signed on June 5, 2002, and precleared on June 25, 2002.  It also enacted a state legislative plan (S.6796), which was signed on April 22, 2002 (amended by S.7300 on April 24, 2002), and precleared on June 17, 2002.

The state Senate and congressional plans were challenged in federal court, and the state Senate plan was challenged in state court. Both plans were upheld. [Rodriguez v. Pataki, 308 F.Supp.2d 346 (2004), aff’d 543 U.S. 997; Allen v. Pataki, Case No. 101712-2002 (N.Y. Supreme Ct. May 9, 2002)]

Materials are available here; maps are available here.

Redistricting Cases in New York

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New York | State Trial | Process
Renna v. Cuomo
PENDING - State court challenge to staffing and funding of New York's independent commission
Last Updated Mar 5, 2021
Case Number

No. 902098-21 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Albany Cnty.)

Cycle 2020

2020 New York Maps Available for Download

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New York | 2020
2020 New York Maps
As of 2014, New York’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by an independent commi...
Number of Maps 6
Last Updated Oct 22, 2021
Cycle 2020