Redistricting Commission hitting more roadblocks

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FILE – This March 19, 2020, file photo, shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident. On Wednesday, March 24, 2021, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Ohio that tried to get the U.S. Census Bureau to provide data used for drawing congressional and legislative districts ahead of its planned release. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission waited months for the state to appropriate money in its budget for the commission to begin formal operations. Little less than a month has passed since a $4 million budget was approved but there is still no date when the funds will be available.

The Commission said they are now waiting for the Comptroller’s Office to make the Commission a department before the money will be available. Commissioners urged the Comptroller’s Office to expedite the process and voiced concern about the 2020 Census count.

“While we feel that urgency and we talk about that urgency all the time in each of these public meetings that we have we have not seen any action from the state that matches the urgency that we feel and that we see on behalf of the public that is interested in this process and wants to participate in the process of weighing in on their democratic representation,” Commissioner Ivelisse Cuevas-Molina.

“Our new population figures for 2020 for the state of New York at 20.2 million and now 26 Congressional districts means our new Congressional district size should be approximately 770,000 which is 60,000 more a Congressional district size in 2010 when they were last drawn,” said, Commissioner John Flateau. “So we have our work cut out ahead of us.”

“If there is anyone out there that doubts the importance of a single voice in our government, let this be their answer,” said Commissioner David Imamura.

The U.S. Census Bureau said N.Y. would be losing a Congressional seat, going from 27 to 26 seats, at the end of April. A day after the Census Bureau’s announcement, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would be looking into taking legal action.

“Look, you had a lot going on. You had people who were nervous to come forward, right? You have undocumented people who were nervous to come forward. I do believe the federal government had a chilling effect,” he said at a press briefing on April 27.

“The statistical analysis is troubling, frankly,” said Commissioner Jack Martins. “How do you get 89 in a year where we’ve had COVID and the difficulties of actually counting were as significant as they were this past year. I would like to see someone seriously consider a challenge to that number.”

After holding on out on posting job announcements, the Commission decided to seek the Legislatures help with the postings albeit without specific salary information. They will be looking to hire four individuals to fill the positions of:

  • Public Engagement Director
  • Assistant to the Public Engagement Director
  • Data Manager
  • Administrative Assistant

A series of public meetings will be scheduled to gain insight into how to equitably redraw districts but Commissioners were hesitant to release a schedule.

Commissioner Martins told the meeting goers Tuesday that they shouldn’t wait for the public hearing dates to be finalized before readying their comments because there is no way to tell how much notice will be able to be given.

“For anyone who is interested in participating start preparing your statements now,” he said. “So that way when we call on you and we tell you there’s going to be a meeting in Manhattan, or in Brooklyn, or in Nassau, or in Albany, or in Rochester, or in Buffalo, or anywhere else in the state you’re prepared to come out.”

NEWS10 contacted the NYS Comptroller’s Office about when the Commission would be able to use its budgeted money. Communications Director, Jennifer Freeman said the Comptroller’s Office had no comment.

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