News & Politics

Jeffries blasts latest redistricting proposal

The House Minority Leader criticized the new congressional map released to lawmakers this week, suggesting that it unconstitutionally benefits Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on Feb. 7, 2024

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on Feb. 7, 2024 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A day after the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission sent over a new congressional map to lawmakers very similar to the one already in place, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries all but demanded state lawmakers go back to the drawing board. 

Neither leader in the state Legislature has indicated where they or their chamber will fall on the new lines, but Jeffries released a statement highly critical of the proposal. It went as far as to suggest that the map unconstitutionally benefits Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro. “There is reason to be concerned with the failure of the IRC to address many of the flaws in the current map drawn by an unelected, out-of-town special master in 2022,” his spokesperson Andy Eichar said. Eichar added that while the commission had an opportunity to fix the issues in the current map, he charged the new map “ignores or exacerbates them in parts of New York State, including the upper Hudson Valley.”

Jeffries is not directly involved in redistricting efforts, which fall to state lawmakers and the governor to approve or reject. And a legislative task force will draw new lines if necessary. But Jeffries is leading the efforts in New York to win back the House and flip several seats for Democrats. And as the highest ranking Democrat in the House, his influence over state Democratic politics is vast – especially when it comes to matters relating to Congress.

Jeffries’ public statement puts pressure on state lawmakers to reject the bipartisan map and draw their own. “I think the Dems in the Senate and Assembly have PTSD from last year’s redistricting debacle and have little appetite for voting down the new lines,” one Democratic insider said. “That said, these maps are very much not what the Democrats had hoped for, and certainly not what DC wants to see.”

Another insider thinks that what Jeffries said represents a final nail in the coffin for the commission map. “It’s not pressure, it’s cover,” the insider said. “New York is not going to be the impediment to the Dems taking back the house, certainly not when a New York Dem would be the likely speaker.”

Some state lawmakers have already said that they will vote down the map, or at the very least have indicated that they have deep concerns about the lines. Both state Sen. James Skoufis of the Hudson Valley and state Sen. Sean Ryan of Western New York have put out statements ripping the maps and committing to vote them down. State Sen. Liz Krueger, a senior and influential member from Manhattan, also told Capitol Tonight that she is worried about the proposal from the Commission. 

Krueger said the new map looks pretty close to the map that “one Republican judge from upstate New York with a temporary assignment and a few thousand people in his district decided to draw for us.” A Republican judge from upstate appointed an out-of-state specialist to draw the congressional districts currently in place in 2022 and Krueger said she didn’t like the maps then either. “I thought we would be getting different maps; it appears we didn’t really get different maps,” she said. “So I can certainly see an argument for the legislature rejecting these.”

Long Island state Sen. Kevin Thomas, who is running for Congress this year, also suggested that he isn’t pleased with the final map outcome. “I have concerns about the proposed map,” Thomas wrote on X. “It is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that redrawn lines provide proper representation for all New York State voters at the Federal level.”