New congressional districts suggested by a federal magistrate for Long...

New congressional districts suggested by a federal magistrate for Long Island (March 6, 2012) Credit:

The congressional map proposed by U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann made a mockery of the idea that drawing fair electoral districts is hard, or that the state needs 10 years and a constitutional amendment to do it. Mann's map presents sensible boundaries that respect communities, rather than incumbents and parties -- more than you can say for the maps proposed by the State Senate and Assembly.

New lines are drawn every 10 years, and New York's loss of two seats this time promised to make the process sticky. Mann, called in by a panel of federal appeals court judges after the Senate and Assembly said they could not agree on lines, drew a map that dealt with that, and all the other challenges, neatly.

On Long Island, District 1, Democrat Tim Bishop's seat, would include all of eastern Suffolk County. District 2, Republican Peter King's seat on the South Shore, would be split between Nassau and Suffolk, as would Democrat Steve Israel's North Shore District 3. Democrat Carolyn McCarthy's District 4 would be mostly southwestern Nassau. The new lines put Gary Ackerman's Roslyn Heights home in Israel's district, but Ackerman says he'll seek the 6th District seat in Queens.

Statewide, the lines are fair and sensible. And though these exact districts are unlikely to go into effect -- New York congressional maps drawn by federal judges were modified by the legislature before being adopted in 2002 and 1992 -- the map makes points voters should heed.

Drawing fair lines isn't difficult. Mann relied considerably on the district lines created by Common Cause NY that are a cornerstone of the interactive mapping project of's UMAPNY site. The clean lines and shapes of Mann's map show that convoluted boundaries aren't necessary.

What now? A hearing is scheduled for March 15 in front of the three-judge federal panel, which could adopt these districts, ending the process. But legislators will likely pass their own boundaries first. And this could become a chit to settle other Albany issues: budget, pension reform, Senate and Assembly districts, and gambling, which would be a shame.

There are no perfect boundaries, but, overall, Mann's are good. The closer the final map is to this vision, the better off voters will be.


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