An independent, bipartisan panel whose sole job was to reach consensus on new lines for New York’s congressional and state legislative districts has failed to come to an agreement.

The New York State Independent Redistricting Commission met virtually Monday, ostensibly to approve a set of newly-drawn maps that would shape the boundaries for state and federal elections for the next 10 years.

Instead, the meeting started with Democratic and Republican appointees delivering fiery speeches, accusing each other of not working in good faith and failing to participate in the process. The two parties ultimately presented separate proposals, unable to come to an agreement on a single plan.

With the Republicans and Democrats voting for their own maps and the commission’s two independent members split, the 10-member panel deadlocked 5-5 on each vote.

The gridlock came after the commission held 16 meetings and a dozen public hearings across the state, collecting public input for a process that was supposed to end with a single proposal but ended with partisan finger-pointing.

“Throughout this process, what has disappointed me most about my Republican colleagues is their seeming indifference to public input and an unwillingness to put pen to paper and modify their maps,” said David Imamura, a Democrat who chairs the commission.

Jack Martins, the Republican vice chair and a former state senator, fired back, accusing Democrats of breaking off talks during the commission’s final work meeting when the two sides had reached agreement on wide swaths of the maps.

“We didn’t reach agreement because one side turned their backs and walked away,” Martins said. “That’s exactly what happened.”

The district lines, once finalized, will be put in place through 2032 and could have huge implications for political power in New York and nationally, particularly when it comes to the congressional lines.

New York’s allotment of congressional seats is due to decline from 27 to 26 in this year’s election cycle. And whether Democrats or Republicans can make gains in the state could help determine which party wins control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats currently have a 221-212 advantage.

As it stands, Democrats hold 19 of New York’s 27 congressional districts as well as large majorities in both houses of the state Legislature.

Now, it will be up to the state Legislature to decide whether to accept either plan, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate and Assembly. And it could ultimately open the door for lawmakers to draw the lines themselves.

If lawmakers accept one of the plans, Governor Kathy Hochul would get the chance to sign or veto them. If lawmakers reject both plans, the commission would get a second chance to draw the lines. If the Legislature were to reject those lines, lawmakers themselves could make changes that, in theory, could be drawn to benefit one party or the other.

There’s also a major time crunch.

The congressional and state legislative district lines are due to be in place for the 2022 election cycle. Petitioning to get on the ballot for the June 28th primary is expected to begin in March, meaning final district maps would have to be in place before then.

“The race now is against time to hold a spring primary in June,” said Jeff Wice, senior fellow at New York Law School’s Census and Redistricting Institute. “The Legislature has to act quickly on the plans submitted (Monday).”

Political gerrymandering was the very thing the state’s new independent panel — implemented for the first time this redistricting cycle — was supposed to prevent.

Voters statewide approved the new process in 2014. It was put forward by lawmakers and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a way to make redistricting more independent after years of lines being drawn to benefit one party or the other.

But the makeup of the independent commission quickly led to the potential for gridlock.

Of the panel’s 10 members, four are Republicans and four are Democrats appointed by legislative leaders. Those eight appointees then combined to pick the remaining two independent members, one of whom was allied with Democrats and the other with Republicans.

That cleared the way for Monday’s votes, which broke along party lines.

Wide portions of the Democrat and Republican congressional maps were similar.

This map of New York shows regions divided by color, reflecting the redistricting lines Republicans want for the state.

Republican appointees to the New York Independent Redistricting Commission proposed this set of district lines for New York's 26 congressional districts on Jan. 3, 2022.

Republican appointees to the New York Independent Redistricting Commission proposed this set of district lines for New York's 26 congressional districts on Jan. 3, 2022.
New York Independent Redistricting Commission

Both maps made major changes to New York’s 22nd congressional district in the Mohawk Valley, divvying it up among surrounding districts. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney.

But there were small, nagging disagreements that worked their way into the proposals, some of which were in New York City and on Long Island.

Republicans, for example, took issue with how Democrats split up Nassau County and parts of Brooklyn, including the Sunset Park neighborhood, which was split among two districts.

“We could have finished the maps, and we let the state down, we let all the people who participated in this process down by not reaching consensus,” Martins said.