New York voters got a closer look Monday at what congressional district they’ll reside in for the next 10 years, but they’ll still have to wade through a packed primary calendar before choosing who will represent them.
The court-appointed “special master” tasked with redrawing the state’s 26 congressional districts released his proposed lines Monday, simplifying a since-thrown-out, Democrat-drawn map that was ruled to have been unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
The latest proposed map — drawn by Jonathan Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University — makes major changes to the previous iteration, removing the controversial Long Island Sound district that would have connected Nassau and Westchester counties via a tiny strip of the Bronx, among other changes. It also disregards where incumbents live: Some saw their home addresses lumped under the same district, including longtime Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan – setting up a high-profile primary in the proposed 12th district.
Listen to WNYC's People & Power reporters Brigid Bergin and Jon Campbell on the release of the newly redrawn congressional maps and their impact on the upcoming primaries.
The maps are due to be tweaked and finalized by Friday, after a public comment period that runs through Wednesday. People can post formal feedback on the NYSCEF system. Justice Patrick McAllister’s clerk can also receive and upload files at email@example.com. Lastly, New Yorkers can reach out directly to Cervas, the special master, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the court finalizes the maps, the congressional districts will hold an August 23rd primary – which is not to be confused with the June 28th primary for some state races.
Confused? Here’s what you need to know.
Why are there going to be two primaries?
There weren’t supposed to be two primaries. State and federal primaries (except the presidential primary) are held on the fourth Tuesday of June, according to state law. And that was to be the case this year as well – at least until the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process imploded.
The state Independent Redistricting Commission, a bipartisan panel that convened for the first time ever, was supposed to draw new congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts this year. But the panel never reached consensus on the maps.
So the Democrat-led state Legislature took matters into its own hands and drew the lines, per state law. Republicans sued over the congressional and state Senate lines and succeeded in getting them overturned: Both sets were ruled to have violated constitutional procedure and the congressional lines were found to have been gerrymandered to benefit Democrats.
That meant new lines had to be drawn and new procedures approved for candidates to get on the ballot. So the courts moved the Senate and congressional primaries back to account for it, but left everything else on June 28th.
What races will be held on June 28th?
The June 28th primary will feature the statewide primary contests, including the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial contests. For the Democrats, Gov. Kathy Hochul will face off against New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Rep. Tom Suozzi, a congressman who represents parts of Nassau and Queens counties. Democrats are scheduled to debate on June 7th and 16th.
Appearing on the Republican ballot are former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, businessman Harry Wilson, Rep. Lee Zeldin of eastern Long Island, and Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Republicans are scheduled to debate on June 13th.
The June primary will also include all Assembly primaries. Depending on where you live, there may also be some judicial contests and local party primaries for positions like district leader and county committee. The New York City Board of Elections posted the list of candidates who will appear on the June primary ballot here.
What races will be on the ballot on August 23rd?
As it stands, the August primary will feature only congressional and state Senate races.
The list of candidates who will appear on those ballots is not finalized yet because the district maps themselves aren’t finalized.
Cervas, the special master, issued his draft congressional maps early Monday afternoon, and said his proposed state Senate maps would be posted later in the day. Acting Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister of Steuben County is accepting comments until Wednesday before he approves final district lines Friday.
Does my voter registration status change given the primary mess?
New York has a closed primary system. That means, you can only cast a ballot if you are a registered member of a party that is holding a primary. If you are already a registered voter in either the Democrat or Republican parties, there are primaries for you on June 28th and August 23rd.
If you are registered with a minor party, such as the Conservative or Working Families parties, you should check with your local Board of Elections to see if there are primary contests in your district.
For registered voters without a party affiliation, the deadline to change that has passed. It was February 14th.
If you are a new voter registering for the first time, you must submit your voter registration with a specific party designation by June 3rd to participate in the June 28th primary. The deadline for the August 23rd primary will likely be July 30th, which is 25 days before the primary, although the state BOE has not issued its updated calendar for those contests yet.
What about candidates who already qualified to be on the ballot in the congressional and state Senate races?
In the order issued by Judge McAllister last week, candidates who qualified for a spot on the ballot based on signatures they already submitted will be eligible to remain on the ballot for any seat as long as they submit a certificate to the Board of Elections by May 31st. That means, when people see the new district lines drawn by the special master, some candidates may choose to run in a different district. Some election law experts say this sets up a scenario where candidates may shop for a district where they are most likely to win.
Within an hour of Cervas unveiling his proposed districts Monday, congressional candidates started staking out their ground. It was a particular scramble in the Hudson Valley, where the district lines caught some by surprise.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro announced he would run in the new 19th congressional district – which no longer includes Dutchess County. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan – thought to be Molinaro’s most likely opponent before Monday – will run in the 18th district.
But McAllister’s order also opened the door for new candidates to appear on the ballot, either those who were previously disqualified or those who decide to opt in and collect signatures based on the new lines.
Can those who’ve yet to declare a run for office do so for the August 23rd primary?
Yes, if they want to run for congress or state Senate. But they will need to get to work fast. Candidates can begin collecting signatures on May 21st, the day after the court approves the new district lines. Those new candidates are required to gather a smaller number of signatures compared to the candidates who already qualified for the ballot, but they also need to do it in less time.
The deadline to submit petitions is June 10th. Normally, candidates have just over a month to file their petitions — now it will be about two weeks.
When will I know who is running in the August 23rd primaries?
By law, the ballots need to be certified 55 days before the primary election. That means the congressional and state Senate primary ballots should be set by June 29th. The state BOE will post a revised calendar of dates by May 21st.
So what happens next?
There’s still the question of what exactly happens with the state Assembly lines, which were drawn under the same failed process as the others.
Since Republicans didn’t include the Assembly lines in their initial court challenge, they’ve remained in place. But a group of potential political candidates and a Republican voter have since filed legal challenges seeking to have those lines tossed as well.
They filed a lawsuit in Manhattan state court Monday hoping a judge throws out the Assembly lines – since, based on the existing court decisions, they were drawn unconstitutionally. But if the court doesn’t issue a temporary restraining order, it’s possible the Assembly lines could remain in place for this election only to be thrown out in the near future, raising the possibility of 150 Assembly special elections next year with new district maps.
That’s the scenario attorney Jim Walden, who filed the lawsuit, is trying to prevent.
“They're clearly unconstitutional – period, full stop,” Walden said last week of the Assembly maps. “So it cannot be the case in our democracy that voters are subjected to one year's worth of election with unconstitutional maps.”