The New York state redistricting process may have an impact on students this fall.

Last week, a NYS Court of Appeals judge ruled that the state’s new congressional and senate district maps must be redrawn. The maps had been approved by New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul in February, after being passed by state legislature as part of New York state’s recurring redistricting process. Under the maps, Binghamton and other sections of Broome County had entered New York’s 19th Congressional District (NY-19), after formerly being in NY-22.

Every decade, per the New York State Constitution, voting districts must be reevaluated to fit data from the most recent census. This includes boundaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, state assembly and state Senate. The task has been handled by lawmakers in the past, but an amendment made in 2014 gave the power to a commission appointed by state legislature. This was the first year that the committee was put in use, but partisan divisions took hold of the decision-making process, leading to an inconclusive result.

As a result, the Democrat-led state legislature drew lines for the new districts, and the Republican Party filed a lawsuit in response, citing concerns of gerrymandering. Following this, two small courts declared the Democrat-controlled maps unconstitutional. While the state assembly was unaffected, the new lines would change the districts which determine the U.S. House of Representatives and state senate. The court rulings recommended that a “special master,” appointed by individuals outside of the state government, be in charge of drawing the new district lines. A special master was also used in 2012 when Democratic leadership conflicted with Republicans over the district maps.

The newly drawn lines would have potentially allowed Democrats to gain up to three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jonathan Krasno, a professor of political science, commented on the changing political climate within New York state, describing gerrymandering as a potential issue.

“A commission full of well-intentioned people could stumble into a gerrymander without planning to, if the people on it don’t have any idea what they’re trying to do,” Krasno wrote in an email. “I’m in favor of not gerrymandering state and local offices within New York state. But, until other states agree not to gerrymander at the federal level, it’s less clear whether New York state should agree to play it straight.”

The New York state political calendar has also been affected by the indecision. Primaries in districts unaffected by the new political maps are scheduled to be held on June 28. However, congressional and state Senate primaries will now be held Aug. 23, which may affect student voters.

Alison Handy Twang, the associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement, advised affected students to make a plan to vote early in their respective districts.

“Primaries for races impacted by the court ruling, including Congress and state senate, are expected to be held on Aug. 23,” Twang wrote in an email. “Because Aug. 23 is the first day of classes, many students will not have had the opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration address.”

Krasno also discussed the changing demographic of politics in rural and suburban areas, indicating a shift in political unrest.

“The partisan divide in New York state is very much like it is in other states with the cities being Democratic and the rural areas becoming increasingly Republican,” Krasno wrote. “NY [Democrats] have more than enough urban voters to win statewide elections, but the political divide has become more toxic.”

Alex Umiker, a sophomore majoring in political science, is not confident in the state’s ability to partake in nonpartisan practices.

“I feel that the process will always be biased no matter who is in power,” Umiker said. “I believe that it is hard for any political entity to be truly nonpartisan. I believe it is sadly natural for each party to yearn for more power and that power can be achieved through the redistricting process.”

Umiker ran a campaign in 2020 to become a member of the New York State Assembly as a resident of Tioga County, and has stayed active in politics. Umiker reflected on partisan politics, calling for more focus on other topics within the state.

“I would rather have the New York state government focusing on the most important issues that regularly impact the everyday citizen,” Umiker said. “The state government should be focused on the rising inflation and crime rates in [New York City] rather than who gains one or two seats over the other.”