Every 10 years, congressional districts are redrawn using the latest census data. This year, though, the state’s independent commission has competing maps with Democrats and Republicans not reaching a consensus.
Depending on the map that becomes reality, the outcome of several key congressional races in next year’s midterm elections could be significantly affected, and it could have implications on who holds power in Washington.
“I wouldn’t say either one was an aggressive gerrymander, Republican or Democratic, but it’s clear the Republican plan is beneficial to the Republican Party and vice versa from the standpoint of the Democratic plan,” says Richard Born, a professor of political science at Vassar College who has studied congressional elections and redistricting for more than 40 years.
Born says voters should pay attention to congressional elections like the Hudson Valley’s 19th Congressional District which is shaping up to be a race between incumbent Democrat Antonio Delgado and Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive and former gubernatorial candidate.
“I don’t know … how they treat Delgado, but the situation he faces in his re-election is going to be precarious,” said Born. “Molinaro is about the strongest possible Republican you could think of to run against Delgado. He’s a popular Dutchess County executive, he’s a semi-moderate Republican, he’s certainly not far off on the right; the other thing he has going for him is he’s pretty well known.”
That’s where district lines come into play. Where you live and your party affiliation could affect the lines, with placement being the difference between a few hundred voters and a few thousand.
“I’m actually surprised that Molinaro jumped in already before even knowing what the final lines are gonna look like,” Born said. “If there’s more aggressive gerrymandering making the district a lot more Democratic, is Molinaro going to stay in? If that happens, it’s essentially going to be a suicide mission.”
Another major factor at play is in Albany, where the state legislature could be tempted to draw up and pass its own maps should the commission not unanimously agree. That would favor the Democrats running the state. The final redistricting map won’t be finalized until sometime next year.